SEATTLE — For the first time since joining MLS in 2009, the Seattle Sounders have a new shirt sponsor.
Zulily, a locally-based online retailer that prides itself on machine learning to target a user’s preferences, was announced as the Sounders’ and Seattle Reign’s most prominent sponsors on Thursday during a press conference at the Olympic Sculpture Park. The company’s refreshed logo — which itself was unveiled at the event — will be featured on the First Team and academy gameday jerseys, travel jackets, rain and stadium jackets, and official team polo shirts.
Notably, the Sounders’ sponsorship deal does not include the naming rights to the CenturyLink Field pitch, training tops or anything at Starfire Sports Complex. Under the previous arrangement, Xbox had the naming rights to most of the Sounders’ high-profile spaces. S2 — which is also due to have their new name revealed soon — will also have a separate shirt sponsorship deal. The Sounders have not yet announced those new partnerships, but they are expected to be unveiled before the start of the season. Even without those ancillary agreements, the Zulily partnership is already more lucrative to the Sounders than their arrangement with Xbox, which has previously been reported at $4 million per year. It is almost certainly among the most valuable sponsorships in MLS.
Although technically a separate arrangement, Zulily was also announced as the Seattle Reign’s new shirt sponsor. Of the markets with both an MLS and NWSL team, only Orlando’s teams have the same shirt sponsor — Orlando Health — and they are owned by the same group. The length of the deals were not announced, but the Sounders called it “long term” and the Reign deemed theirs “multi-year.”
“That was part of what us made us feel like we were choosing the right partner,” Sounders majority owner Adrian Hanauer told Sounder at Heart about the Reign deal. “It was so community based — men, women, academy.”
The Sounders have at least been open to the possibility of changing sponsors for several years and had even conducted a national search more recently. Hanauer said that search had started several interesting conversations, but once working with Zulily became a possibility, he said it felt like a natural fit.
“From Day 1, we wanted to make sure we ended up with a great partner and we almost made it a nonstarter to have a local partner,” he said. “Certainly a national firm started the process for us and made some introductions and allowed us to talk to a number of different brands, but ultimately once Zulily came to the table, the values, the approach they took, their ambition, the collaborative nature of their organization kind of made it a no-brainer to head down this path. Obviously we’re super excited about where we ended up.”
It also didn’t hurt that Hanauer had an existing relationship with Zulily’s head of marketing, Kevin Saliba. The two had previously worked together at Imagekind, a startup Hanauer helped fund about a dozen years ago. That seems to have helped bring the deal together relatively quickly, with conversations starting during the summer and being finalized over the past three months.
“Kevin was an absolute rock star at Imagekind and it was clear to me that he was the kind of person — character wise, intelligence wise — that I wanted to work with,” Hanauer said. “When we started talking, that previous experience together probably greased the skids on putting a deal together. I trusted Kevin and believed in his vision, in his business practices, in his decision making.”
From Zulily’s perspective, this is one of their highest profile marketing campaigns. The company — which was sold to QVC’s parent company for $2.4 billion in 2015 — has experienced most of its growth through word of mouth and online advertising. It was only last year that it aired its first TV commercial. The newly unveiled logo is the company’s first new look in the nine years since its founding.
Saliba said the deal was not intended to expand the company’s audience, but rather improve its standing.
“We want our current employees to be proud to work here and want to invest in the local community and for prospective candidates to see this,” he said. “We think this is an excellent way to do that.”
How do you feel about the new sponsor?
This poll is closed
I love it
I hate it
All I care is the team gets paid
Against modern football