Orlando City SC’s Chicken Problem

By | February 5, 2015

Orlando City FC Chick fil A

Orlando City Soccer Club, the 21st franchise to join the MLS, announced earlier this year that they would be partnering with Chick-fil-A for the club’s upcoming inaugural season. As part of the partnership, Orlando City fans who don the club’s gear into participating Chick-fil-A locations on game day will receive a special promotion. Orlando City Founder and President, Phil Rawlins welcomed the partnership by stating, “They share our passion for serving our community, and have put together a unique platform to help our fans celebrate each and every game day!”

However, Rawlins’s enthusiasm was not nearly as evident in fan responses to the partnership on social media platforms such as Twitter. Chick-fil-A has previously been faced with controversy regarding CEO Dan Cathy’s remarks against same-sex marriage and his monetary contributions to political organizations that oppose LGBT rights. Some fans voiced their concerns on Twitter, expressing their disappointment that the club was partnering with “a bigoted company” or “an openly anti-gay sponsor.” Others raised the concern that Chick-fil-A is not open for business on Sundays, but the Orlando City SC plays 11 out of 34 of its matches on Sundays.

In the larger spectrum of soccer history, controversial sponsorship deals are not unheard of. For example, FC Barcelona’s shirt deal with the Qatar Foundation brought an end to an era during which the club did not receive payment from a commercial shirt sponsor. Manchester United’s four year association with AIG, the American insurance corporation that was the recipient of bailouts after the 2008 financial crisis, was also heavily criticized. The Bolton Wanderers are also currently partnered with 188Bet, a company that has offered live betting on academy and youth matches.

Soccer clubs have become symbols and sources of identity for many fans, and when the clubs begin accepting support from companies and corporations that supporters do not identify with, the relation between fan and club is strained.

Sources:

Orlando City SC Tweet, Twitter, January 20, 2015.

“Orlando City Soccer: ‘Gay haters,’ Chick-fil-A supporters?” Orlando Sun Times, January 26, 2015.

“Controversial, strange and embarrassing shirt sponsorship deals” The Independent, October 9, 2012.

2 thoughts on “Orlando City SC’s Chicken Problem

  1. Maureen Coffey

    Well, very soon everything will “gel” in the sense that no one dares make any move lest they might tread on someone’s toes that they have almost no way of knowing in advance. Effectively that might mean that corporate executives might lose their constitutional rights to voice “any” opinion lest they might estrange some part of their constituency. Indeed, people who are not even stakeholders but who influence the opinions of stakeholders. However, at the same time everyone wishes for CEOs and generally for managers to show “spine”. This is the squaring of the circle, I fear.

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  2. Connie Cai

    It’s definitely interesting that a MLS team would alienate potential fans before any games have even begun. The Chik-fil-A sponsorship is especially notable given that MLS was the first American major sports league to have an openly male gay athlete, Robbie Rogers. Furthermore, for all other U.S. sports, despite the fact that almost all other parts of the sport have become commercialized and “for sale,” jerseys have remained (for the most part) free of advertisements. In a New York Times article (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/25/sports/soccer/25soccer.html?_r=1&ref=soccer&oref=slogin) written in 2006, the reasoning behind jersey sponsorships is seemingly justified, as it was viewed a necessary component of MLS soccer in order for the league to be taken seriously, compared to other European soccer leagues.

    A previous blog post has additional information on jersey sponsorships in soccer: http://sites.duke.edu/wcwp/research-projects/mediamarketsfootball-in-contemporary-europe/the-money/.

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