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A bone to pick with MLS, Adidas, and ESPN

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So I understand why back in 2004 as the league was coming out of the collapse of the two Florida based teams, why a $150 million dollar deal with Adidas made perfect sense, but that 10 years will be up in 2014 and it can't come soon enough for me.  

For a sport that so much of its fan appeal is team based, the very limited attention and variety offered to MLS by Adidas has left every team with a generic look and feel for far too long.  When the new jerseys are shown, they always follow that their are 3 maybe 4 variants in the league of 16 teams, but when it comes to other merchandise that only Adidas can produce for teams those options are even more limited.  Take for instance the 2010 Official MLS team scarves, one look for every single team the only variety is color and logo, and for me it really looks like they simply dialed this one in.

Don't believe me, check out the image after the jump:

Scarves_medium

So where fans pride themselves on identifying with the team they support, the league has allowed their partner to kill off anything unique.  Now it is up to supporter groups to come up with the real identity for their teams, since the league and Adidas thing generic is the way to go.  

Could you imagine if Adidas treated each of their EPL teams the same way? Oh wait they have, and it is no wonder to me why teams around the world have started to leave the fold of a brand like Adidas, even on the world stage they no longer dominate kits but have continued to lose national teams after uninspired efforts.

Instead a company like le coq sportif provides kits to as many EPL teams as Adidas does:

Arsenal

Nike

Emirates^

Aston Villa

Nike

Acorns*

Birmingham City

Umbro

F&C Investments

Blackburn

Umbro

Crown Paints

Bolton

Reebok

188BET

Burnley FC

Erreà

Samuel Cooke and Co. Ltd.

Chelsea

adidas

Samsung

Everton

le coq sportif

Chang Beer

Fulham

Nike

LG

Hull City

Umbro

totesport.com

Liverpool

adidas

Carlsberg

Manchester City

Umbro

Etihad Airways

Manchester United

Nike

AIG

Portsmouth

Canterbury

Jobsite

Stoke City

le coq sportif

Britannia

Sunderland

Umbro

Boylesports

Tottenham Hotspur

Puma

Mansion.com Casino & Poker

West Ham United

Umbro

SBOBET

Wigan Athletic

Vandanel

188BET

Wolverhampton

le coq sportif

sportingbet

You can see the whole of the 2010 MLS line here (http://tools.adidas-team.com/Soccer/Q110_MLS_Final_LR.pdf) warning it is a very large (26mb) file.  So while the deal with Adidas included $150 million dollars a part of that is their paying of generation adidas player salaries, but even at it's best that is less than a million dollars per year per team.  Do you think Nike, Puma, Umbro, or one of the many other kit providers out there would be willing to pay more?

This is just one of the many deals that seemed right when it was signed, but our supposed partners have simply dropped the ball or worse yet paid nothing but lip service to MLS.  I consider this the same with ESPN, who if they could have gotten the World Cup rights without dealing with MLS surely would have.  A network that would prefer to show WNBA matches, college baseball, over giving MLS any real attention.  

Relegated to a midweek only time slot, you only have to look at the commitment level of our partner to see how little they really care about MLS.  Go back to the last 2 years coverage and see how many matches haven't included LA (Beckham), Chicago (Blanco), or last years most loved team Seattle? I get that for them anything that can get them better ratings makes sense but failure to work towards actually trying to grow the sport so the ratings will follow has left MLS as the very low man on the ESPN totem poll.  How so, well ask yourself why the Championship match, featuring Beckham was relegated to a Sunday evening time slot?  Not exactly the prime time for television watching.

So while the CBA talks are ongoing, I ask the players to realize that the hands of the owners have been tied in so many knots by the well meaning "don" of MLS, understand that so many of the deals that MLS signed as long term deals back when nobody was paying as much attention to MLS as they are now, have crippled the freedom of so many of the revenue generating income streams.

But I toss out this warning to Adidas, ESPN, and other partners, MLS is getting more and more attention, the quality is improving and the bridges you burn with indifference today will be the ones you want to cross in the future.  Stop for a minute and listen to your own announcers as they tell you something has been happening over the last couple years, the league is expanding, the fanbase is excited, and their is money to be made but when a major partner like Adidas simply fails to offer teams a way to differentiate themselves from the other teams in league via merchandise options.  

Look through the catalog and notice how every team has the same style of hats, there are 2 different versions of hoodies both very similar in design.  I am a fan first and foremost, and when I just looked at the RSL merchandise I was happy, content, and almost impressed.  However, when I noticed the whole catalog I began to feel like Adidas wasn't doing its part as a league sponsor and partner, the end result is that I will probably buy less merchandise this year than any of the previous 5 years.  It is time for Adidas to get their act together, they might have the next 4 seasons locked up, but I can't believe that anyone is wanting them as a partner if this is the way they are going to treat our league, our teams, and our fans.

I will be posting images of the entire 2010 RSL merchandise line later tonight

OFF MY SOAPBOX