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Report: Apple selling MLS ad spots for US$4m in overhauled sponsorship strategy

Tech giant wants buyers to commit to a season-long series of spots that will run during games.

1 February 2023 Ed Dixon

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  • ‘Gold’ tier to cost around US$4m, with ‘Silver’ and ‘Bronze’ packages priced at US$3m and US$1.5m
  • Apple not initially accepting ads from sports betting firms

Apple’s broadcast partnership with Major League Soccer (MLS) will see the technology giant dispense with a host of traditional TV advertising practices, according to Bloomberg.

The iPhone manufacturer’s ten-year, US$2.5 billion tie-up with MLS kicks off with the 2023 season and will see every game offered through a new, league-dedicated subscription streaming service called MLS Season Pass, available exclusively through the Apple TV app. Fox will be the North American competition’s sole domestic linear TV broadcaster.

Ahead of its inaugural MLS season, which gets underway on 25th February, Apple has reportedly not been looking for buyers of individual ads during matches. Instead, the company wants potential media partners to commit to a season-long series of spots that will run during games.

Apple has also purportedly not been guaranteeing advertisers that they will reach a certain number of viewers, which is typically standard practice in TV. Bloomberg adds that Apple is not initially interested in ads from sports betting companies, though is accepting offers from categories such as credit cards, alcohol and car rental.

MLS ads are reportedly being sold as three different packages. The most expensive ‘Gold’ one costs approximately US$4 million per season and includes the playoffs and integrations such as sponsoring a ‘Player of the Match’. The ‘Silver’ and ‘Bronze’ packages cost about US$3 million and US$1.5 million per year.

The US TV ad market is estimated to be worth US$68 billion.

SportsPro says…

Considering its size and scope, Apple is in a strong position to call the shots with its MLS ad spots. Even so, the company won’t want the league to be a financial black hole. It deems the reported terms being offered here as well-suited to its streaming platform.

MLS doesn’t command mammoth ratings in the US, but its viewership numbers are increasing. The 2022 season saw Disney-owned ABC and ESPN record their best audiences since 2007, while the MLS Cup was the most-watched edition of the championship game in 25 years. That momentum is good news for Apple on the ad front.

Currently, Apple’s advertising division rakes in around US$4 billion in revenue annually and the company is looking to increase that to $10 billion or more, according to Bloomberg. Sport can play an important role here, given its ability to attract new subscribers.

However, Apple will need to beef out its rights portfolio, having lost out on the National Football League’s (NFL) Sunday Ticket out-of-market package to Google-owned YouTube TV. Since then, Apple has been linked with a bid for domestic rights to English soccer’s Premier League.

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