It’s that time of year again – Major League Soccer season has officially begun. Starting on March 8th, every team has officially played a conference opponent, and the teams are in full swing. Yet, let’s be honest the season started way before then. Players have not only been practicing, traveling and playing scrimmages but also have been participating in media interviews, photo shoots and club promotions. No longer are teams and players supposed to focus on just the sport aspect, but instead the clubs and league are focused on revenue, and publicity – basically anything to get their revenue up or in other words, “elite athletes are on market-building missions when they salute crowds after victories or publicize sponsors’ products during media interviews” (Giulianotti 39).
MLS has a 200$ million ($25 million annually), multi-year contract (until 2018) with Adidas that states that Adidas will be the only, and official athletic sponsor and product supplier. What this means is that each and every team will be outfitted by Adidas gear, and every game ball will be stamped with the Adidas logo. As MLS becomes more and more popular, so does Adidas — “Athletes have always been tied in other forms of consumerism” (Guilianotti 39). In 2007, they sold $300,000 worth of David Beckham jerseys. Jerseys are the key to money making, so why not capitalize on it? As it is “hard to imagine these athletes being valued so differently within a post capitalist society freed from instrumental reason” (Guilianotti 36). Welcome newly instated “jersey week.”
Jersey week was first started in 2013 during the month of February. This week was implemented and created to have social events for MLS clubs to introduce their new jersey to the country. The first year, 11 local events were held where MLS clubs unveiled a new primary, secondary, or third jersey. To kick start the whole ordeal, a national event took place in New York. Maribeth Towers, the senior vice president of consumer products for MLS stated,
“Soccer supporters are extremely passionate about everything involving their club, 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.”
So why not use this to their advantage and get something out of it? This is exactly what they did.
This year, all 19 MLS clubs unveiled at least one new jersey, and will continue to do so every single year. Presales for the jerseys were being offered even before they had been released to the public and websites all over have followed the release parties and news. It’s a genius idea, one that capitalizes on the die-hard soccer fans that will do anything to support their team. Even if this means spending hundreds of dollars on a new jersey kit for themselves. I’m not sure if any of you guys have ever been to an MLS game, specifically one in the PNW – the Sounders and the Timbers having some of the largest fan bases (and craziest fans) in the league, but I know walking around in one of those stadiums, the new jerseys are going to be everywhere. The fans waited patiently for this Jersey week and for their teams new kits to be released so that they could not only ogle over them but snatch them up and wear them with pride.
The league and Adidas are geniuses. They created the suspense by creating this jersey week, a time period where all the jerseys were to be released at once, and nothing was to be mentioned before this time. They created publicity events where they had their players model the jerseys and sign autographs. They pulled out all the stops in order to make some money, and commodify a sport that the public has grown to love. But if people are willing, it only makes sense. In a society where everything revolves around money, and the competitiveness to be popular, having the best, new thing is important; and someone has to be supply for the public’s need. So thank you MLS and Adidas for capitalizing on the capitalist culture America has become, and playing into our weakness. We may be broke, but we’ll look great in a new jersey every year.