Money Talks: Matching Sponsors to Each ISL Team

International Swimming League ISL

Money Talks: Matching Sponsors to Each ISL Team

Sports teams and corporate sponsors go together like peanut butter and jelly. From the “official grocery store of the Washington Nationals” ads gracing every Harris Teeter store in the DMV to the banners for local restaurants hung from the pool fence at a small summer league meet, pretty much every sports team has a sponsor of some sort. Currently, apart from the individual athletes with personal endorsements, just three of the 10 teams in the International Swimming League have official sponsors: The New York Breakers, the Cali Condors (all of whom we’ll get more into later), and Energy Standard.

In my opinion, this needs to change. When you’re the face of a brand, the benefits are endless, as screen time and ads can allow you to identify the high-level performances of these athletes with the brands. Want to be a world-record holder like Caeleb Dressel? Go to Buffalo Wild Wings, and earn bonus points if you get 16 mild wings – and no, boneless don’t count. Boneless wings are chicken nuggets. End of rant. Corporate sponsorships can also bring things such as free gear. Want a PlayStation 5? Play football for Oregon.

Fixing the Finale

First, I’m going to (TikTok voice) add a little bit of spice. With the introduction of team sponsors, the ISL Grand Finale would take place at a series of locations designated as team “arenas,” at first on a rotating basis as the league continues to gain traction, and then on a bid-based system similar to the Super Bowl. These locations would theoretically be (in a dream scenario) as follows:

  • DC Trident: Verizon Center
  • LA Current: Rose Bowl
  • NY Breakers: Madison Square Garden
  • Toronto Titans: Scotiabank Arena
  • Cali Condors: Chase Center
  • Energy Standard: Paris La Defense Arena
  • London Roar: Emirates Stadium OR London Aquatics Centre
  • Team Iron: Duna Arena
  • Aqua Centurions: PallaLattomatica
  • Tokyo Frog Kings: Tokyo Dome

Now, onto the fun stuff.

Sponsors

DC Trident: Devil’s Backbone Brewery

It would be great to see them join forces with the aforementioned Devil’s Backbone Brewery. More recently, USA Swimming announced plans to begin selling alcohol at professional level swim meets; while it would be a good idea to capitalize off of this, it’s still a bit of a weird subject, so we’re keeping it simple at the moment. Might there be better options in D.C. (Harris Teeter, the Washington Post, etc.)? Sure. On the other hand, the one TYR Pro Series event that I’ve attended had a brewery ad displayed very prominently on the pool deck, and in the words of Matt Farrell, former Chief Marketing Officer for USA Swimming, if they want the events to be seen as similar to other professional sports, then they need to have the same opportunities.

Devil’s Backbone is a brewery near Lexington, Virginia, and it fits close enough with the D.C. area to work. Can you imagine drinking an IPA called Rule the Pool? It’s a way down the road, but it could be a great business idea.

LA Current: Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association

isl-Ryan Murphy (photo: Mike Lewis)

Ryan Murphy; Photo Courtesy: MIKE LEWIS / ISL

If you’ve never heard of the Rose Bowl, feel free to leave a comment below. The Rose Bowl is one of the most recognized places in the country, and not just because it has “Rose Bowl” right on the front like a kid with a nametag on their first day of school. It’s also the oldest bowl game in the country, dating back to 1916. When you consider the absolutely gorgeous sunset during the game, along with the fact that Southern California weather is, well, almost always amazing, you also begin to realize the sunset could serve as a pretty amazing backdrop for an ISL Grand Finale held at the Rose Bowl.

Now, onto the sponsor itself. The Rose Bowl Game has been sponsored by a variety of companies, with Capital One being the most recent beginning this year. However, Capital One is headquartered in Northern Virginia, and the game itself is actually played as part of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association’s “America’s New Year Celebration”, so we’ll stick with the latter as a sponsor. And when the LA Current does win the ISL, what better way to honor them than with a float in the Rose Bowl Parade?

New York Breakers: Yankee Global Enterprises

Current Sponsor: Funky Trunks/Funkita

The Breakers actually do have a sponsorship – Funky Trunks – and their female counterpart Funkita. Just like every other sport, a swimmer enjoys the ability to express themselves. Unfortunately, unlike other sports that require things such as a shirt and pants and shoes, male practice suits really aren’t much bigger than the face masks we’ve all been wearing for the last year.

A Funky Trunks and YGE partnership would be a great business opportunity. Owned by YGE, the Yankees are currently the second-highest valued sports team in America at $5 billion. Ever seen a pinstriped racing suit? Most people probably haven’t, so the uniforms would be INSTANTLY recognizable and right up Funky’s alley – a perfect opportunity to expand into the tech suit arena.

Toronto Titans: Rogers Communications Inc

Rogers is basically the Verizon or AT&T of Canada, owning stakes in the largest sports and entertainment company in Canada, Maple Leaf Sports. Some of the more important franchises owned by them include the Maple Leafs, Raptors, and Toronto FC. Speaking of the Maple Leafs, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to predict that the Titans win an ISL title before they win another Cup. Idealistically, matches would be broadcast on Rogers SportsNet.

Cali Condors: Chase Bank

Current Sponsor: Bratter PA

While Funky Trunks deals with the apparel side, the Condors’ sponsor, Bratter PA, deals with the athletes themselves. As a world-renowned immigration law firm, they have vast experience in the swimming industry and provide counsel currently for the American Swimming Coaches Association, as well as hundreds of Olympic athletes. As international athletes join the ranks of the Condors, Bratter will be essential in securing immigration status and residency for them and hundreds of other athletes.

For the Condors, Chase Bank. What other incredibly successful sports team plays in San Francisco? Sure, the 49ers have five Super Bowls, and George Kittle is a stud, but the Warriors have been nothing short of dominant lately, and what better matchup than a professional swim team and the Splash Brothers? You could nickname the Condors the Splash Squad and have posters displaying both squads displayed very prominently both in and outside of the arena for when the ISL is held there.

Energy Standard: Accor S.A.

Current Sponsor: Energy Standard

Energy Standard is owned by Konstantin Grigorishin, the ISL’s founder/financier/CEO of the company of the same name, so the company sponsors the team.

For a second sponsor, I wound up going with hospitality company Accor S.A., the largest hospitality company in Europe. Accor also happens to be a sponsor of French football club Paris Saint-Germain, home of star Kylian Mbappe (also known as the first athlete to make me question my life while I sat on the couch eating chips and salsa and watching a guy two months older than me dominate the FIFA World Cup). Louis Vuitton was another pretty good option as the most valuable brand in France, but even their sweatshirts didn’t feel like something you would even want to put on for fear of wrinkling it, much less wear out on a pool deck.

 London Roar: Emirates

Like PSG, we’re getting another team that shares a sponsor with a soccer squad; this time it’s the London Roar and Arsenal, one of the top soccer football teams in Britain, and not just because of the brand recognition. When a swim team is sponsored by an airline, that gives ample opportunity to make ads emphasizing the fact that they FLY down the pool. Adam Peaty is well known because of his absolute breaststroke dominance. Apart from the fact that it’s a problem that he’s not one of the most recognized athletes on the planet, what better way to market the ISL than by slapping his face on the side of a plane? If I was at the airport and saw this monster of a logo on a plane without any prior knowledge, I would probably be intrigued enough to google it.

Team Iron: The Iron Lady

The team is called Team Iron because member Katinka Hosszu, also known as “The Iron Lady” also happens to be one of the owners of the team. So, what better idea than to have her personal brand sponsor the team. There are definitely bigger brands out there,  but I think the branding of Hosszu and Team Iron is a great gfit, especially with Hosszu as one of the best in the world.

 Aqua Centurions: Frecciarossa

I wound up going with Frecciarosa, a high-speed train line that also happens to be a sponsor of Roman soccer squad A.S. Roma. Apart from Roma being a pretty good team as far as I’m concerned, what better sponsor for a professional swim team than a train that specializes in going fast? You could advertise them inside and outside of the train, and ads could go like “When you specialize in going fast, only one thing will work for you *train zooms by*”.Absolutely perfect choice.

 Tokyo Frog Kings: Nintendo

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The team box of the Tokyo Frog Kings during Match 8; Photo Courtesy: Mine Kasapoglu

Not grouping these two together would be the equivalent of when you make Mario try and push something out of a brick, but it’s just a brick so all he gets is a concussion: painful. Nintendo is actually based out of Kyoto, but Nintendo and Mario are icons of Japan to the point that after Tokyo was selected as the host of the 2020 2021 Olympic Games, Mario was literally used in the ceremony to usher the games on to Tokyo. Like the Oregon players in the Fiesta Bowl, all Frog Kings members could get a free Switch. Maybe some of them could make appearances in the Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games series(leave a comment below if this was also your childhood). With Nintendo, the possibilities are endless.

It was very interesting to see that while some teams had sponsors, others didn’t.  Some of these other sponsorships could work really well, such as Yankee Enterprises and Funky Trunks, and Nintendo. In the end, sponsorships are clearly a great way to bring more attention to the sport.

Who would you choose?