MLS Kicks Off With ‘Jersey Week’ & ‘March To Soccer’

MLS ‘Jersey Week’ is being positioned as a league tradition, but is actually the latest marketing experiment in the form of an alliance between the league, its franchises, the players and equipment supplier Adidas.


The league and its kit partner have co-ordinated a series of kit launches (12 to be precise) in late February (25th to the 28th) in order to crystallise the start of the new (the 17th) season and combine individual initiatives into a more powerful unified campaign across the USA and Canada.


While not every club took part this year, by 2014 all 19 franchises are required to unveil a new kit (home, away or third) every single season and participate in Jersey Week.


The long term plan is that every year will see a new theme and the 2013 central concept is ‘Jersey as Art’. Thus, the focus of much of this year’s activation and PR is the art, creative process and detail that goes in to each team’s collaborative process with Adidas


MLS allied with the Futbol Artists Network (FAN) to create the ‘True Colors’ of MLS.


Artists from across the US and Canada created canvas art utilizing club marks, club colours and jersey teaser images.


The ‘True Colors’ artwork was featured via MLS social media platforms in the two weeks leading up to Jersey Week using the #TrueColors hashtag.


Jersey Week 2013 was initially nationally launched with a live New York Red Bulls Party event on a Manhattan pier at which artist Curtis Kulig unveiled these original pieces of art featuring the 19 MLS clubs at the launch.


Inevitably, as with so many shirt launches around the world, there were plenty of both earnest and slightly tongue-in-cheek star player interview comments around the new shirt designs. For example, at the New York Red Bulls launch Thierry Henry limited his comments to ‘I’ll be able to tell you a bit more when I sweat in it.’



In addition to this national event, there were 11 other local events across the country throughout the week where MLS clubs and players unveiled new home, away or third strips at iconic landmarks, museums, transport hubs, museums and shops.


For example, the Colorado Rapids embarked on a ‘Jersey Caravan’ around landmarks of the Denver region to showcase their new home shirt which follows in the footsteps of the New Zealand All Blacks ‘This Is Not A Jersey’ 2008 adiThreads initiative



by including the names of all 1,451 season-ticket holders printed within the darker hoops that wrap round the burgundy kit.



Thus the team actually takes its fans out on to the field with them.


To further support the art-led ‘True Colors’ campaign and the individual team launch events, Jersey Week was also pushed through coverage on MLSsoccer.com and by a social media campaign using the #JerseyWeek hashtag.


Actually, in advance of Jersey Week itself, all the new jerseys were actually made available for pre-order on MLSgear.com and MLSGearCanada.ca using teaser images.


‘Soccer supporters are extremely passionate about everything involving their club,’ said Maribeth Towers, senior vice president of consumer products for MLS. ‘But the jersey might be first and foremost. It is the crest that is closest to their heart. Jersey Week will celebrate the soccer jersey. Every stitch, every minor detail, every shade is designed in collaboration between the club and our partner at adidas. We’re excited to unveil Jersey Week for our supporters.’


In addition to ongoing brand-backed initiatives, such as Generation adidas (the MLS’ youth player development program designed to identify and nurture the elite youth soccer talent in North America), other MLS innovations for 2013 include ‘Rivalry Week’ – which takes place in the third week of the season and sees teams play their biggest local rivals.


Of course, the surface objective behind jersey Week is to celebrate the soccer jersey, but the underlying strategy is to group marketing initiatives together in order to project a single, nationwide campaign that gets Americans across the country either overtly or subliminal thinking about the new MLS season.


This aim has been further boosted by the ‘March To Soccer’ integrated campaign which has also been running across TV, print and digital platforms prior to the 2 March 2013 season kick off.



In addition to the campaign itself, one innovation this year saw MLS Commissioner Don Garber Live-stream his annual ‘March To Soccer’ state-of-the-league address on 27 February to the MLS YouTube channel and feature a Q&A from both a panel of soccer journalists and fans live via a Google+ Hangout.



Garber is the first commissioner of a major sports league to utilise this combination of technology and access to speak to fans, partners and media.




The MLS/adidas jersey partnership has become one of the foundation stones of the league’s marketing programme.


Last year, the big MLS jersey news was the announcement that it was chipping each and every players’ shirt with adidas miCoach technology. Thus ensuring the North American league would become the first smart league in the world with live data tracking and online analysis tools.


This year it is ‘Jersey Week’.


Adidas’ MLS partnership deal will see the German giant produce every kit in the league until 2018, so there are plenty of further opportunities for the MLS to unveil additional kit-led league initiatives.




MLS March To Soccer Webfilm



MLS March To Soccer Website



MLS March To Soccer Commissioner Address YouTube



MLS Website



MLS Twitter



MLS Facebook



MLS Google+



MLS YouTube Channel



NBC Season Promotional Trailer



MLS NY Red Bulls Jersey Week Launch Event




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