TicketManager | Sans Salesforce, LA28 & USOPC Can Find Consolation in Major Leagues’ News

Losing one of three top-tier partners—as the organizing committee for the Los Angeles Olympic and Paralympic Games and the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee did earlier this week when Salesforce exited its planned seven-year agreement after less than three years—is a big blow.

While sponsors across sports and entertainment have terminated agreements early for a variety of reasons, this is the first time in recent memory—going back to the origin of the IOC’s worldwide TOP program in the 1980s—that a high-level Olympic partner bowed out prior to the Games.

However, recent sponsorship announcements from three of the big U.S. pro sports leagues should give some solace to LA28 and Team USA marketers as they seek to find new partners to take Salesforce’s place. The NHL, NFL and MLB all filled open partner categories within the last few days, including the replacement of a sponsor that also abandoned ship in the middle of a term.

In September, just weeks before the start of the NHL season, the league’s partnership agreement with Toronto-based BioSteel was forced into limbo when the company filed for bankruptcy. The deal was terminated by a Canadian court monitor in November.

But this week, just in time for the playoffs, the NHL revealed that Coca-Cola’s BodyArmor brand will become the league’s new official sports drink partner for North America in a deal that runs through the 2028-29 season.

The NHL was able to capitalize on robust activity in the category. As Sports Business Journal’s Alex Silverman noted in his article on the partnership, “the functional beverage space has evolved considerably in recent years, with up-and-coming brands like Celsius and Prime blurring the lines between sports drinks and energy drinks.”

LA28 and USOPC might be able to similarly exploit competition in the business technology and digital transformation space to find a company to fill Salesforce’s shoes as quickly as the NHL replaced BioSteel.

Indeed, the Olympic organizations announced an agreement with Guild to become their official education, skilling and career mobility provider on the same day that Salesforce publicly withdrew from its partnership. (There is industry speculation that competitive concerns over the Guild deal were partially responsible for Salesforce’s decision to depart.)

Meanwhile, as SBJ’s Ben Fischer reported, the NFL this week “signed Applebee’s as its ‘official grill and bar’ sponsor, making it the first casual dining chain to have sponsorship rights since a brief deal with IHOP in 2009.” This blog pegged the category as one to watch for future deals in a post last June.

MLB also has filled a long-vacant category, signing BlueTriton Brands and its Poland Spring, Deer Park, Ozarka, Ice Mountain, Zephyrhills and Arrowhead bottled waters as the league’s official water sponsor. The category had remained empty following the end of Pepsi-Cola’s MLB sponsorship in 2016, which included rights for its Aquafina bottled water.