D.C. United’s jersey will have a new look next season after Volkswagen declined to exercise an option to remain as the MLS club’s primary sponsor, a multimillion-dollar deal in place for six years. The iconic VW logo featured prominently on United’s shirts and across various levels of team branding since 2008.
“Volkswagen has realigned its strategic sports marketing objectives and moved out of team level sponsorships,” Scott Vazin, vice president of brand communications, told the Insider on Tuesday. “Volkswagen continues to work closely with D.C. United to explore alternative levels of involvement with the team.”
United officials say the sides will likely maintain a business relationship on a smaller scale next season, with Volkswagen continuing to serve as the club’s automobile sponsor. The German company’s U.S. headquarters are located in Fairfax County, Virginia.
Meantime, United is “getting close” to reaching a deal with a new primary sponsor, said Mike Schoenbrun, vice president for business development and partnerships. He said the club is engaged in talks with six companies, all based in the United States but with global operations. He declined to name the candidates.
Will a new logo adorn the jersey next season?
“2014 is the goal,” Schoenbrun said. “We’re on a good path.”
In 2008, United signed a five-year contract with Volkswagen valued at $14 million, which, at the time, was the second-most lucrative in MLS behind the Los Angeles Galaxy’s pact with Herbalife.
The sides extended the deal for 2013 under undisclosed terms, with VW holding an option for ’14.
The agreement also allowed VW to place vehicles behind RFK Stadium’s north goal during weekend matches as part of an interactive fan experience known as the “VW Garage.” Cars were also on display outside stadium entrances and a fleet of vehicles were utilized by the organization. United will probably discontinue the “VW Garage,” Schoenbrun said, but the company will continue to have a game-day presence around the venue.
According to one person familiar with the talks, United set a higher price for long-term jersey sponsorship. The move comes amid MLS’s continuing expansion and the prospects of a new stadium at Buzzard Point in Southwest D.C. In the end, the source said, United will keep VW at a small level for the time being and gain a new primary partner for multiple years.
Changes in jersey sponsors are not uncommon. Manchester United, for example, has had four in the past 30 years — Sharp, Vodafone, AIG and Aon. Starting next season, the Reds will don Chevrolet’s logo.
Volkswagen was United’s first revenue-generating shirt sponsor. (In past seasons, the jersey featured small logos of league partners.)
VW’s sponsorship deal with MLS, which also began in 2008, runs through next season. MLS’s previous automobile pact was with Honda.