Before even playing a single game, the new expansion club Vancouver Whitecaps already has the highest sponsorship value in the entire MLS. "Even with Los Angeles and its stadium and David Beckham, the largest sponsorship base is here in Vancouver," Don Garber said at a Vancouver Board of Trade meeting. In a recent article from the Vancouver Sun, Bruce Constantineau reported that "The Whitecaps signed a lucrative jersey sponsorship deal with Bell last summer and have since added deals with BMO, EA Sports, and Labatt. Garber said the Bell sponsorship is one of the richest sports sponsorships deals in North America – worth "many millions of dollars a year."
So how is it that this brand new team that hasn't even touched a ball in regular MLS season play, lands the top spot among all league franchises in sponsorship value? There are multiple different reasons we could talk about as to why, but really there is one aspect about the Vancouver Whitecaps that sets them apart from the rest of the league: its engaged and enthusiastic ownership. Whitecaps owner Greg Kerfoot and part time owner Jeff Mallett were touted as being potentially "the most engaged ownership group" in the MLS by commissioner Garber in an interview with the Vancouver Sun. To give you an idea, both Kerfoot and Mallett sat in the stands in pouring down rain with the fans at the 2009 MLS Cup Final, instead of sitting in the comfort of the luxury box suites. Both are also active on several MLS boards as well.
The engagement and enthusiasm of the Whitecaps ownership is infectious, and when you look at it from a simplistic viewpoint, it's understandable why they've garnered so many lucrative sponsors. If you are looking for sponsors, are they more likely to go with the team that has excited and enthusiastic owners, or the team that has nonchalant leadership? Which one would you choose? The answer is easy. No one wants to be a part of an organization if its own leaders aren't excited about being there.
The name of the game is to get people to want to be a part of your organization. It's easy to do this with an engaged and excited ownership group like the Whitecaps have. This excitement and enthusiasm about their team not only goes a long way with sponsors, as they've already shown, but it will trickle down to the coaches, players, and ultimately the fans. Obviously, this is the group you want most excited about your team, because let's be honest, you don't have a team without fans. Even though they are a new team, I would not be at all shocked if we see Vancouver boast one of the highest average attendances in the league for the 2011 season. It's certainly not out of the question, particularly when you look at what Seattle has done since its inception a few years back. And even if they don't have the highest attendance in the league, at least they still have the top sponsorship value to fall back on.