The million kids who participate in youth soccer programs through AYSO are about to become walking advertisements for Herbalife supplements with all moms who attend their games as the target audience.


Los Angeles-based Herbalife Ltd. signed a four-year sponsorship agreement last week with L.A.-based national non-profit American Youth Soccer Organization to put the company's logo on the front of youth soccer jerseys. Financial terms were not disclosed.

The move puts the same logo on the chests of the kids as did the five-year $25 million sponsorship to put the company's name on the shirt of Major League Soccer's Los Angeles Galaxy star David Beckham.

"Soccer is very powerful with young kids today," said Tom Zimmer, senior vice president for the Americas.

Throughout the soccer world, corporate logos frequently adorn the jerseys of professional teams. In the United States, however, other major professional sports leagues such as the NFL, Major League Baseball and the NBA have been reluctant to turn players into advertising vehicles.

The agreement is the first of its kind for the youth soccer league. It calls for AYSO's approximately 80,000 teams to add the Herbalife name to the front of jerseys when teams order new uniforms. However, teams do not order new uniforms every year, so some teams will still have uniforms without the logo in 2008 and 2009. Zimmer expects all teams to have the updated uniforms within three years, but he thinks demand from the kids will speed up the process.

"We think kids will want it now because Beckham has the Herbalife name on the front of his jersey," Zimmer said. He is encouraging Herbalife's 350,000 distributors in the United States to sponsor local teams and buy them new uniforms with the logo.

Those distributors will also be on the fields talking to parents about good nutrition for both adults and kids.

"If parents don't ask what Herbalife is, we think that kids will ask the question," said Zimmer.

For Herbalife, the youth market is growing. The company added a line of youth supplements in 2006 and hopes to promote the message that nutrition and exercise are important parts of leading a healthy lifestyle for kids, too.

"We're interested in brand recognition and making Herbalife a household name," said Zimmer.

Center Court

Los Angeles-based AVP Inc., the company that operates the Association of Volleyball Professionals pro beach tournament, is looking for a corporate sponsor to purchase the naming rights to the traveling stadium court that is mounted at all 18 tour stops, including its famed Manhattan Beach Open.

The company hired Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, the newly formed venues and consulting division and affiliate of Nets Sports and Entertainment LLC and the New Jersey Nets basketball team.

With a broadcast contract for AVP events to be televised on NBC and cable networks during the upcoming season, as well as Olympic coverage for the sport in Beijing, AVP is ready to capitalize on the sport's unique setup. It would be the first mobile venue with naming rights.

The newly established Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment has teamed up with Atlanta-based marketing and client management agency Career Sports & Entertainment to provide research services and sponsorship development. Career Sports & Entertainment has a corporate representation division that includes clients such as AT & T;, Kellogg Co. and Aflac.

Other initial clients for the partnership also include Izod Center in Brooklyn, where the Nets will start playing in 2009, and Foxwoods Resort Casino, which is seeking naming rights for its theater opening at MGM Grand at Foxwood.

Lesson Learned

Lakers Coach Phil Jackson was recently coaxed into revealing insightful information about the development of players such as Kwame Brown and Jordan Farmar.

He told an audience of about 475 people at the Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment Commission's Basketball 101 event at the Staples Center last week that Brown wasn't always a quick study in strategy, while Farmar is developing quickly as an offensive player.

Current and former Lakers participated, including assistant coaches Kurt Rambis, Tex Winter and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar along with Michael Cooper, Derek Fisher and Lakers vice president Jeanie Buss.

About 100 of those attending showed up early so they wouldn't miss a minute of the 5 p.m. event. Tickets went for $550.

"Nowhere else have I seen people in L.A. show up early and line up before the event," said Kathy Schloessman, president of the commission.

Bill McDonald of KCAL (Channel 9) served as moderator of the panel discussion that got Jackson talking.

"We appealed across the board with current Lakers players and greats like Kareem," Schloessman said. "We couldn't fit anymore people on the court!"

Staff reporter David Nusbaum can be reached at (323) 549-5225, ext. 236, or at dnusbaum@labusinessjournal.com .

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