Technology Ad Spend Data & Privacy

TikTok & MLS ink multi-year deal in hopes of scoring big with fans on the app


By Kendra Barnett | Senior Reporter

March 17, 2023 | 6 min read

The app is teaming up with the US’s premier professional soccer league in a wide-reaching deal meant to mobilize soccer fans. In the background, however, efforts to restrict the app’s operations in the US and the UK are accelerating.

TikTok at SXSW

TikTok and MLS are teaming up in a new multi-year partnership / TikTok

TikTok today announced a new multi-year partnership with Major League Soccer (MLS), the men’s professional national soccer league that includes 29 clubs across the US.

Here are the details to know.

What happened

Though the length of the deal has not been made public, the new partnership will span many years. It aims to mobilize TikTok users to engage with MLS on the app via exclusive content, events, game highlights, in-app initiatives, stadium activations in games across the country and more.

Plus, as part of the deal, TikTok will become an official partner of MLS, which means the app will receive placements in all MLS games during the season through various activations, including in-stadium branding and TikTok-MLS content broadcast on stadium screens. The video-sharing app will also serve as a co-presenting sponsor of eMLS Cup, the league’s annual esports tournament.

“From tifos to club rivalries, MLS fans are some of the most passionate in the game, many of whom come to TikTok to react to their favorite moments across the league, build community with other fans and connect with the passion and authenticity of the soccer world,” said Harish Sarma, TikTok’s global head of sports and gaming, in a statement. “We're thrilled to be partnering with MLS to take soccer content to the next level, all while giving our community exclusive access to the game they love so much.”

A key component of the new partnership is the Club Creator Network, which will pair TikTok creators with MLS clubs to develop custom content for the app during the on- and off-seasons. The program will aim to give fans behind-the-scenes looks at their favorite teams and players in candid video content available exclusively on TikTok.

“The Club Creator Network with TikTok fits perfectly with MLS’ vision of creating our version of the global game,” said David Bruce, MLS’ senior vice-president of brand and integrated marketing, in a statement.

“We are thrilled that compelling content imagined by young and progressive creators will drive awareness to our clubs, players, matches, and major events. The ability to make MLS assets available to fans in new and creative ways, so they can help tell our story on TikTok, will enable us to drive engagement with existing and future fans across the world.”

Beyond the Club Creator Network, TikTok will also work with MLS to create unique clips and features available to all users via the Library in-app creation hub. The idea is to provide creators with new opportunities to integrate MLS moments into their own generated content.

TikTok users will be able to simply search ‘MLS’ on TikTok to enter a new MLS Hub, where they can access all kinds of content from the league, individual clubs and the players themselves.

The context

MLS has already been dabbling in brand activations on TikTok. It’s accrued a following of some 1.2 million users on the app since joining in 2020. A handful of MLS teams, including the LA Galaxy, Inter Miami CF, LA FC, Atlanta United FC and others are also active on the platform. Last year, the league invested more in its TikTok strategy when it announced a partnership with Noah Beck, a TikTok influencer with some 34 million followers, to co-create unique soccer content and engage MLS fans.

Soccer and MLS fans are increasingly flocking to TikTok to consume content and learn more about the game and their favorite teams and players. Viewers for #soccer have ballooned by 500% in the last two years, growing from 40bn in early 2021 to over 267bn today, TikTok reports. TikTok likely sees soccer fans as a key demographic to engage.

With over a billion monthly active users, TikTok is an increasingly valuable channel for many advertisers. In fact, ad spend on the platform is accelerating at breakneck speeds: between the first three quarters of 2022 and Q4 of the same year, ad spend on TikTok jumped 20%, according to reporting by Digiday.

Despite the app’s surging popularity among consumers and advertisers, TikTok is facing growing scrutiny around the world. This week, the Biden administration issued an ultimatum to the company, threatening a ban in the US if it refuses to sell. Efforts to ban the app in the US market are also advancing in Congress. Meanwhile, across the pond, UK leadership this week announced that it will prohibit the app from being installed on government devices.

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