Merchandise motives

Author Jenna Matsushita, University of San Francisco

Posted: September 28, 2017

Tagged: fan motives

MLS recently signed a deal estimated at $700 million with Adidas as the “official supplier partner and will outfit all MLS clubs and their youth affiliated clubs through 2024” (Thomas, 2017, para. 3). With soccer on the rise globally this is a huge investment in American soccer which will play a role in its growth over the next decade. Not only have they secured this deal with the MLS but they have also partnered with FIFA through the 2030 World Cup. Should soccer continue its success and increase in popularity as expected these deals could pay off well for both MLS and Adidas.

Other forms of motivation include sacred motives and self-expression motives. With sacred motives “consumers associate different products as being an important part of their family traditions” and with self-expression consumers “choose carefully the products they decide to buy, so these objects have consumers’ identity and can influence perceptions of others” (Pons, Giroux, & Mourali, 2014, p. 30). Both sacred and self-expression forms of motivation tap into a more personal aspect of the consumer and as such Adidas plans to integrate “cultural elements like music and art into its partnerships” (Thomas, 2017, para. 14). Adidas’ ability to appeal to these motivations of fans will be important for their success and reputation with soccer fans. While Adidas has appealed to cultural aspects of other soccer markets it will be vital for them to adapt their plans to different markets within the United States to be seen as a genuine partner and sponsor of MLS.

Merchandise plays an increasing role within organizations to build fan bases and fan identification, thus it is one great source of revenue with jerseys, shirts, and other apparel options (Pons et al., 2014, p. 30). With different apparel options fans increase feelings of “belongingness” to the team which can be reflected in “Basking in Reflected Glory” (BIRGing) fans. There are different types of fans and typically BIRG fans and “Cut Off Reflected Failure” (CORF) spectators are more “performance driven” and have different wants and needs from fans who are more “highly identified consumers” (Pons et al., 2017, p. 26). While spectators and fans have different wants and needs from an organization all around, their choices in merchandise will also differ so with Adidas’ extension the challenge will be to cater to both types of patrons.

Adidas and MLS are also involved in a venture to develop youth players and create “homegrown superstars” (Thomas, 2017, para. 11). By creating these star players, communities rally around a team which can be the attribute/benefit level of the laddering of team brand associations. Next would be the consequence level which would result in fans and followers hopefully buying merchandise. Lastly would be the level of value in the flow chart, which would create a sense of belonging community as merchandise can help promote bonding amongst fans (Funk & Lock, 2014, p. 42). This additional investment by Adidas and the MLS can only do positive things for both parties, even if there is less talent generated than expected, it still generates excitement for the youth market to start or continue playing soccer thus more merchandise is sold. With youth participation in sports, declining programs like these give soccer an edge in drumming up youth participation. In addition to the dollars and cents, this can also be good for public relations on both ends sponsoring a program benefiting youth.




Funk, D. C., & Lock, D. (2014). Sport consumer attitudes: Formation, function, and effects on information processing. In M. P. Pritchard, & J. L. Stinson (Eds.), Leveraging Brands in Sport Business (pp. 37-50). New York, NY: Routledge.

Pons, F., Giroux, & M., Mourali, M. (2014). Consumer Behavior and Motivation: Why are sport   event consumers so special? In M. P.Pritchard, & J. L. Stinson (Eds.), Leveraging Brands in Sport Business (pp. 21-36). New York, NY: Routledge.

Thomas, I. (2017, August 7). Adidas deepens soccer roots with MLS deal.  SportsBusiness Journal, 20(16). Retrieved from


About Jenna Matsushita, University of San Francisco

Jenna Matsushita recently graduated from the University of San Francisco with a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology and is currently in the Sport Management graduate program at the University of San Francisco. She plans to continue exploring careers in sport marketing and operations. This article is an edited version of a paper prepared for Dr. Michael M. Goldman’s Sport Marketing class at the University of San Francisco.

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