I know, I know. Cheap shot. Obvious cheap shot. But that’s kind of the point.
Many hardcore Union fans don’t seem to mind that their sponsor’s name is also the term for “an attractive but empty-headed young woman, especially one perceived as a willing sex object”, according to Dictionary.com. Some hardcore fans do mind. Many casual fans mind. And those fans brand new to the club shy away from purchasing a jersey the same way they would from, say, a bimbo.
I once posed a question at a Union town hall meeting to Chief Business Office, Tim McDermott, concerning this topic. I asked if the club would ever consider changing sponsors because of the off-putting name, or the fact that the Bimbo logo’s colors don’t match at all with the club’s flagship navy blue and gold, and look like they’ve been simply glued onto the front of the kits by a fifth grader? The room got noticeably quiet as many season-ticket holders felt my sentiment. Mr. McDermott gave the response I expected. He said they’ve looked into a logo color change but Bimbo is unwilling and they are paying them a pretty sum.
I’ve had first-hand experience seeing others avoid purchasing Union gear for this simple fact. A few years ago I attended a match with my niece who was about 15 years old at the time. She had saved some money and was excited to purchase a Union shirt at halftime. Immediately after she decided on which one to purchase, she took another look and said “Wait. I can’t get a shirt that says Bimbo!” I couldn’t argue with her point and she dejectedly put the jersey back on the hanger. You’re probably saying, well that’s one example. I can attest I’ve been in the Union stadium shop about one hundred times and I have heard this conversation or a slight variance of it between parents, sons and daughters more times than I can count. Heck, on casual Fridays I can pretty much wear anything to the office but no way would I wear a shirt displaying “BIMBO” across the front or anywhere else for that matter. I know it’s a bread/baked goods company and that it’s pronounced “beembo”, but I don’t want to have to explain it to everyone that walks past my desk. I’d feel like the kid in high school with a cast on his arm. By the end of the day I’d be sick and tired of explaining to the 20th person how I broke it. It’s annoying, unnecessary, and it’s not helping jersey sales.
According to MLSstore.com, despite National team stalwart Alejandro Bedoya and reining MLS goal-keeper of the year Andre Blake playing in a top five market, the Philadelphia Union don’t have a single jersey ranking in the top 25 in the league in sales. Maybe it’s their perennial poor record or lackluster play. There are likely several reasons. All I know is the “BIMBO” logo does nothing to enhance sales and probably does the reverse. The Union needs all the help it can get, and they aren’t doing themselves any favors retaining their long-time sponsor. In less than two years they will have to decide to renew or go their separate ways.
It’s understandable that closer to the club’s inception, sponsors might not have been knocking down the Union’s door, not knowing if the club would even be around four or five years later. Now we are at eight full seasons, MLS has a more lucrative television contract, and the Union’s value has doubled during that time. That should make the Union more attractive to possible sponsorship suitors. You might be asking if they are worth twice as much today, why would a new sponsor be beneficial? Despite those positive facts, the Union rank in the bottom third of the league in club valuation and like many MLS teams, were not profitable last year. Anything they can do to increase their value and move into the top half of MLS should be explored.
There are several Fortune 500 companies based in the Philadelphia market that I feel, if they were to replace the Bimbo logo, would help the Union see a significant increase in jersey, apparel and product sales. Crown Holdings, UGI (King of Prussia, PA) and Lincoln National (Radnor, PA) should be considered, along with more well-known Philadelphia native companies like Comcast, Aramark and Campbell Soup (Camden, NJ). They would remove any hesitancy that the Union has placed on its products with its Bimbo. None of those sound like a woman you’d be ashamed to bring home to dinner.