SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The San Jose Earthquakes announced that Northern California healthcare network Sutter Health has been signed as the club's jersey sponsor. The partnership agreement is for three years, with financial details of the deal undisclosed, but expected to put it in the top-five of all deals in MLS in terms of the money involved.
"What an exciting day for the San Jose Earthquakes and the Bay Area soccer community," said team president Dave Kaval from a stage erected on the center line at Avaya Stadium. "Partnering with Sutter Health, a company that shares our commitment to the community and cares for Northern California, for our players, and for our fans, was a partnership we felt was perfect for us as a club."
"We, the physicians and care teams at Sutter Health, recognize the impact of sports and a healthy lifestyle, both for our mental and physical well being," said Elizabeth Vilardo, CEO of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, part of the Sutter Health network. "Sutter Health is proud to partner with the Earthquakes, an organization which shares our values of community, diversity, inclusion, health, and wellness."
It's been over three years since the organization terminated its jersey sponsorship agreement with previous partner Amway, a move that was widely supported by Earthquakes fans at that time. In the years since, the team has gone without a sponsor, in no small part due to its desire to secure a lucrative long-term deal with a partner that would be more palatable to supporters. The Quakes and Sutter Health began discussions six months ago, and the courtship became serious as 2015 drew to a close.
"I'm so excited to make this announcement today," said Arra Yerganian, Cheif Marketing and Branding Officer for Sutter Health. "This is a milestone for our organization and for the community. Sutter Health serves nearly three-and-a-half million people in Northern California in over 100 communities, and we couldn't be more proud to partner with an organization like the Quakes, who embody our spirit as an organization."
The Sutter Health network is headquartered in Sacramento and has affiliated hospitals throughout the Bay Area. On hand for the announcement were numerous Sutter Health doctors and employees who joined with Earthquakes players, all decked out in the newly sponsored jerseys, for a pass-around on the Avaya Stadium pitch. It was an entertaining case of the Sutter Health GPs kicking it with the Earthquakes DPs.
"It's a privilege for us to take care of the Earthquakes players, who make their personal health a top priority," added Yerganian in a statement. "These players are great role models and we are thrilled to be on the sidelines and in the stands as their partners in health."
The all-white Sutter Health logo features prominently across the front of the Quakes jersey, with the company's distinctive logo preceding its name. The players were all decked out in their 2016 home kits -- an identical design to that worn over the past two seasons. Sutter Health will also be the presenting sponsor of the Earthquakes Academy throughout the duration of the deal. A new away jersey, complete with the new sponsor logo, is expected to be announced tomorrow, prior to the first team's scrimmage against the club's Academy players.
Going back to the inaugural season of MLS in 1996, the then Clash had sponsorship patches on their jerseys, notably Honda in the early years and Yahoo following that. Amway was the first jersey sponsor that appeared across the front of the Earthquakes jerseys, worn for three consecutive seasons from 2009 through 2011. The much derided multi-level marketing company as sponsor was met with ambivalence by many and scorn by more. The search for a jersey sponsor since has focused on finding a company fans and the club could be proud to be associated with.
"In years past, we didn't have a stadium. We now have a beautiful stadium," said general manager John Doyle, a member of the organization since its founding in 1996. "We didn't have a practice field. We didn't have the funding to do all the great things we do now. It's terrific for me, to look out there and know we are going to have a great partner in Sutter Health on our jersey. It's something that as an ex-player, as a general manager, for our coaches and players, we all want to be proud of what is on our chests, and Sutter Health is definitely something we can proud of."
Kaval emphasized the financial windfall that the partnership will bring the Earthquakes, stating that the cash involved over the three-year deal will make it one of the top-five financial agreements for jersey sponsorship in all of MLS. While the exact money involved was not disclosed, he did state that the Sutter Health deal would provide more flexibility when it comes to expenditures on players.
"It gives us more freedom to invest on the player side," said Kaval. "Since the partnership is in the top-five in the league in terms of investment, it puts us on par with a lot of high-end teams in the league, and that gives us flexibility in terms of making the investments we need to. Whether it's investment in the Academy, whether it's investment in the players, it will make us a higher, better quality team. That's a great luxury to have.
"Long term, or even medium term, the types of investments we can make in our roster, as well as other infrastructure, can be enhanced, And I think that we will be important, because the league is getting so much more competitive. We need to have a strong revenue source to support these activities and compete for another MLS Cup."