12.25.06

MLS Shirts To Become Even Uglier

Posted in Football at 12:54 am by

As Major League Soccer prepares to sell advertising space on the front of jerseys — a standard practice in most of the football universe, Barcelona excepted — the New York Times’ Jack Curry ponders the likelihood of the word “Bimbo” taking a prominent spot on Chivas USA’s shirt.

For M.L.S., a decision to sell space to sponsors on the front of the jerseys of the league™s 13 teams for a minimum of $500,000 a year is another way for the league to find a seat at the table in the global soccer marketplace. And Grupo Bimbo, a multibillion-dollar Mexican company that markets products like Wonder Bread, is one of only a few potential sponsors for Chivas.

In previous years, the league sold some advertising space on team jerseys, then divided the proceeds among its clubs. Commissioner Don Garber retains the right to reject inappropriate advertisers, which he considers companies that sell hard liquor and tobacco or run Internet gambling sites.

Grupo Bimbo has its name emblazoned on the jerseys of a handful of Mexican club teams, including Chivas Guadalajara. That club, like Chivas USA, is owned by Jorge Vergara, a Mexican businessman. A third Vergara team, Deportivo Saprissa of Costa Rica, is also sponsored by Bimbo.

In Spanish, the word bimbo has no specific meaning, similar to the way the Häagen-Dazs name was made up in order to sell ice cream. When Grupo Bimbo was founded in 1945, according to the company™s official history, it came up with the name through a combination of the words Bambi, the animated Disney movie released three years earlier, and bingo, a popular lottery in Mexico at the time. The company, whose logo is a small teddy bear, has marketed its products for more than 20 years in the United States, primarily in areas with large Hispanic populations.

Confusion over marketing slogans has also traveled north to south. A maker of T-shirts in Miami was trying to capture the Hispanic market during a visit by Pope John Paul II in 1987. The shirts were supposed to read œI Saw the Pope (el papa) but instead said œI Saw the Potato (la papa), according to the Web site moronland.com. Coors also had a translation problem in 1983, when its slogan œTurn It Loose ended up meaning œsuffer from diarrhea.

œChivas is the perfect fit for Bimbo, and honestly, I never really thought of it in that other connotation, said Kathy Carter, an executive vice president for Soccer United Marketing.

An entitely different tip, though Roman Abramovich is often villified for his impact on English football, yesterday’s Observer credits Chelsea’s owner with improving the state of reindeer husbandry in Chukotka.  Beat that, John Henry.

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