Sports Business Recap: USL & ESPN, Hisense & FIFA, USA Rugby & adidas

Time for another recap of some recent news items from around the world of sports business!

USL Expands National Coverage on ESPNU, SiriusXM and ESPN3


The United Soccer League (USL), the largest Division II professional league in the world and longest standing member of the U.S. Soccer Federation, announced the expansion of its media reach across the country in linear and digital broadcast platforms as well as SiriusXM.

The USL announced it has expanded its relationship with ESPN for the 2017 USL season. The USL’s telecast agreement with ESPN enters its second year with expanded coverage that will see more USL games aired on ESPNU. The USL Game of the Week on ESPN3 will also return, with top games being featured on the streaming network throughout the 30-week regular season. The first Game of the Week will be OKC Energy FC and Sacramento Republic FC at Taft Stadium onTuesday, April 11. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. ET.

All games will be produced by USL Productions, the league’s $10 million investment in state-of-the-art broadcast production, broadcast and distribution facilities with VISTA Worldlink in south Florida. All other 2017 USL matches will be available for viewing via the USL Match Center, supported by up-to-the-minute match statistics provided by industry leader Opta.

“ESPN’s continued support of the USL has been phenomenal,” said Tom Veit, USL Executive VP and Chief Revenue Officer. “We are delighted to expand our relationship with them for 2017, and bring some of the league’s best games in the regular season to television.”

In addition, the USL announced a new agreement with SiriusXM that will bring the league to a national radio audience throughout the 2017 USL season. Starting Tuesday, April 11, SiriusXM FC, SiriusXM’s exclusive 24/7 soccer channel, will air a live USL Game of the Week.  Moreover, the USL will have a weekly one-hour show that will debut this Monday, April 10, and air every Monday night at 9:00 pm ET.

“We are very pleased to enter a new agreement with SiriusXM, a leader in audio entertainment, to deliver our games to their growing national audience,” said USL President Jake Edwards. “The upcoming USL season will see an unprecedented level of access and content made available to the league’s fans.”

“Our agreement with SiriusXM will open up even greater opportunities for fans to stay connected with the league, and offer the chance to learn more about the USL’s great players and coaches,” concluded Veit. “We are extremely happy to have the nation’s premier satellite radio broadcaster join our broadcast family for the new season.”

Hisense Becomes Official Sponsor of 2018 FIFA World Cup


On April 6th 2017, in a joint press conference held with FIFA, Hisense announced its status as an official sponsor of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, becoming the first-ever Chinese consumer electronics brand to sponsor the tournament.

As an Official FIFA World Cup Sponsor, Hisense will engage in an array of global marketing and advertising activities for both the 2017 Confederations Cup and 2018 FIFA World Cup, reaching more than 200 territories in the process and greatly enhancing international exposure for the brand. Hisense will be able to associate its logo with the forthcoming FIFA events mentioned above, as well as numerous other rights that include access to advertising boards in stadiums, on-screen credits and other various creative marketing opportunities on-and-off the pitch during the events.

The President of Hisense Group, Mr. Liu Hongxin, sees the FIFA World Cup as one of the most significant sporting events in the world, rivaled only by the Olympic Games. For Hisense, sponsoring the prestigious tournament not only serves as a massive marketing opportunity for the brand, but also as a crucial, strategic initiative for the entire enterprise. “Over the years, Hisense has earned a lot of experience and brand growth through sports sponsorships,” expressed Mr. Liu.

“We are honored to take on our biggest challenge yet with the FIFA 2018 World Cup, and believe it will vastly improve global awareness and economic value for Hisense as a truly international brand. The World Cup brings together the highest level of competition and prestige in football worldwide, making it the perfect platform for us to be a part of.”

Additionally, Hisense will offer its technical expertise and products throughout the 2018 FIFA World Cup while also engaging in a joint R&D initiative with FIFA to further push the boundaries of display technology.

FIFA Secretary General, Fatma Samoura said: “FIFA is delighted to welcome Hisense on board as an official sponsor of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia. We look forward to working with them to promote the competition, particularly in China, where the company is a market leader in consumer electronics, and where the popularity of football continues to grow.” FIFA president Gianni Infantino also sent his congratulations and excitement for the partnership.

USA Rugby Partners with adidas in New Multi-Year Agreement


USA Rugby, the national governing body for rugby in the United States, and adidas recently announced a multi-year partnership in which the Portland, Oregon based company will be the official kit supplier for USA National Teams and representative teams.

“We are extremely proud to partner with adidas and offer our athletes the best athletic apparel possible,” said David Sternberg, CEO of USA Rugby’s commercial arm Rugby International Marketing. “adidas is a world-renowned brand that supplies kits to some of the most successful athletes and teams in the world. Adding a partner of their stature is further proof of rugby’s growth in the United States and around the world.”

With the new multi-year deal, adidas will be the primary creator and outfitter of all team training and competition apparel for USA Rugby. Additionally, Age-grade teams and representative sides such as the Collegiate All-Americans and Falcons, respectively, will also be outfitted with adidas branded kits.

“adidas has a ton of momentum and as we continue to inspire athletes as the sports brand for creators, this new partnership provides a tremendous opportunity to showcase some of our most innovative apparel and footwear,” said Jeff McGillis, Senior Director of U.S. Sports at adidas. “Our mission is to help athletes perform better and we’re honored to play a part in one of the fastest growing sports in the U.S. as the brand continues its focus on winning in this market.”

The iconic three stripe logo known around the world debuted on the match day kit for the Women’s Eagles during their CanAm Series in Chula Vista, Calif. and will be featured on the match day kit of the Men’s Eagles Sevens at this weekend’s Hong Kong Sevens. The world-class apparel will also roll out to the Women’s Eagles Sevens for their next stop on the HSBC Sevens Series in Kitakyushu, Japan later this month. The Men’s Eagles will debut their new kit against Ireland June 10 at Red Bull Arena and the Women’s Eagles will debut their custom adidas kit during this August’s Women’s Rugby World Cup in Ireland, designed specifically for the tournament.