When fans of the Portland Timbers first heard of the team’s kit sponsorship deal with local home improvement contractor DaBella, many who were unfamiliar with the company took to search engines to find out more. Landing in places like Reddit, Yelp and the Better Business Bureau website, one is likely to find a breadth of negative reviews, concerns about the business owners’ past ventures, and ethical questions.
But what does that mean in a broader context? And why did the Timbers enter a partnership with a company with so much negativity swirling around online, particularly given the club itself is trying to repair its reputation following years of off-field scandal?
Well, it sure seems like the answer to that last question is “money.”
…The Timbers faced multiple rejections from companies before landing with DaBella as their kit sponsor.
That is not surprising.
The Sports Business Journal reported that DaBella CEO Donnie McMillan, Jr., replied to the team’s inquiry within five minutes, and McMillan’s meeting in July with the club’s senior leadership — which included apparent rapport with owner Merritt Paulson — was a tipping point.
It is no small thing that Alaska Airlines — a company with nearly 25 times the annual revenue of DaBella, and one that kept its partnership with the Timbers for 13 seasons — dropped its sponsorship of the team. While it was never said explicitly by the company, PTFC’s failures as outlined in the U.S. Soccer investigation may have played a role. And it could be part of the reason why the Timbers landed with a much smaller company as their kit sponsor.
“Reputation in sponsoring has feedback loops,” Cornwell said. “When there has been reputational damage to a team, it is then difficult to attract and retain sponsors that have good reputations and want to keep them.”
Ah, well then this seems to be a perfect union of forces.