Microsoft launches deal with MLS, Sounders FC
Ready for some rave green? That's the primary color of the Seattle Sounders FC jersey that was unveiled Wednesday at Qwest Field. And in keeping with...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Ready for some rave green?
That's the primary color of the Seattle Sounders FC jersey that was unveiled Wednesday at Qwest Field. And in keeping with international soccer trend and fashion, the jersey and team have a major sponsor — locally-based software giant Microsoft.
Sounders FC and Microsoft announced their sponsorship deal, unfurling a giant replica jersey in the stadium's north bleachers. The jersey, bright green with blue piping, has the words "Xbox 360 Live," the top Microsoft video-game product, emblazoned on the front with the Sounders FC logo on the left shoulder.
"This is a defining moment for the entire soccer community," Sounders FC majority owner Joe Roth said.
Additionally, Xbox 360 will be the presenting sponsor of an annual Sounders FC international tour, and the playing surface at Qwest Field when the team begins play next year will be known as "The Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field."
Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft's entertainment and devices division, confirmed the sponsorship deal has a five-year term. The deal is worth an estimated $20 million, which Microsoft will pay Sounders FC over its course, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.
Microsoft had previously not been known for doing much in the way of sports sponsorship. But the corporation found what it felt to be an ideal situation in attaching itself to the fledgling Sounders, with soccer growing in participation locally and nationally.
"When we looked at soccer and what's happening in the sport, and then we looked at what was happening with youth and how powerful the growth is there," Bach said, "this is an opportunity to be in really close to the ground floor, and certainly the ground floor with the Sounders."
Bach said many Microsoft employees are soccer fans, and they will become passionate Sounders FC fans. The company has plans to be involved in developing the team's community initiatives.
The partnership doesn't end with Seattle. Xbox 360 will be recognized as the official and exclusive video-game console of MLS and receives MLS players appearances, league Web site presence and in-stadium exposure, among other benefits.
"I think it's a testament to where Major League Soccer is today and, more importantly, where we're going to be tomorrow," said Kathy Carter, executive vice president of Soccer United Marketing, the marketing and fan development arm of MLS. "From a global perspective, it makes a lot of sense."
Sounders FC will be one of 10 MLS teams wearing the name of a corporate sponsor on the front of its jersey in 2009. Sounders FC jerseys will go on sale in November.
"You can't pay for that kind of advertising," Bach said.
Sounders FC has surpassed the 16,200 mark in sales of season-ticket deposits, and executives said the team will have the largest season-ticket base in MLS. General manager Adrian Hanauer and technical director Chris Henderson have been searching for players — visiting countries in South America, Africa and Europe.
"We will make our new partner extremely proud of the team that we put together," Hanauer said.
• Ticket sales for the Brazil-Canada match are about 37,500, and tickets for the Saturday match at Qwest Field, which will be played on natural grass, are still available.
• Hanauer said the team has had conversations and put together short lists in its search for international players and the all-important designated player.
José Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
UPDATE - 8:54 PM
Sounders lose to another expansion team
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