- Tournament nearly cancelled after FIFA corruption scandal
- International soccer event close to selling out sponsorships
Samsung Electronics Co., Tag Heuer and Makita Corp. have signed on to sponsor this summer’s Copa America Centenario, the soccer tournament that almost collapsed under a widespread bribery and corruption scandal that upended international soccer.
Soccer United Marketing, a unit of Major League Soccer, brokered the current sponsorships. Alongside WME/IMG, SUM won the rights to close out the tournament’s marketing after U.S. prosecutors alleged that the original company paid more than $100 million in bribes to the Centenario’s organizers.
SUM and WME/IMG guaranteed tournament organizers a minimum of $20 million for the remaining TV and sponsorship rights, according to a person familiar with the deal. Though the group doesn’t disclose financial figures, it says it is close to being done recruiting sponsors."We expect to close out the last official partner positions in the coming days," SUM Vice President Carter Ladd said in an e-mail.
Makita will join Swiss watchmaker Tag Heuer and Korean conglomerate Samsung. The power tool manufacturer has been an MLS sponsor since 2004 and also sponsors Mexico’s national team. Tag Heuer, a unit of LVMH, has been raising its profile with soccer fans, this year becoming a sponsor of both the MLS and U.S. Soccer Federation. Samsung is new to the sport in North America.
SUM’s discussions with potential sponsors have centered around the idea that this event, a special 100th anniversary celebration of the Copa America, would reflect a new, more reputable era in international soccer. Organization president Kathy Carter said strong ticket sales are also part of the pitch, showing that the corruption at the sport’s highest levels hasn’t hindered fans’ interest in seeing stars like Argentina’s Lionel Messi or Brazil’s David Luiz.
Nike Inc., Coca-Cola Co., Sprint Corp., State Farm Insurance Co., Anheuser-Busch InBev and Delta Air Lines have already signed on as sponsors.
Fox Sports in January agreed to pay $15 million for the English-language rights to broadcast the event in the U.S. Univision will pay more than four times that for the Spanish-language rights.
The biggest soccer tournament to take place in the U.S. in more than 20 years, the Copa America Centenario begins June 3, when the U.S. faces Colombia at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. The final will be June 26 at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.