The Portland Timbers and Portland Thorns FC have signed a new partnership with TikTok that will see the short-form video app’s logo added to the jersey sleeve for both teams.
The deal includes TikTok branding at Providence Park, where the MLS and NWSL teams play, and across their digital assets. The logo will also appear on the front of the jersey worn by Timber Joey, the club’s mascot, a lumberjack who operates a chainsaw during games.
Majority-owned by Merritt Paulson, son of former U.S. treasury secretary Hank Paulson, the Timbers and Thorns represent TikTok’s third sponsorship in North American sports. The company partnered with a NASCAR team last year, and also with the New York Yankees.
“We are very proud that TikTok chose our clubs as two of their first team sponsorship deals in the U.S.,” Mike Golub, president of business for the Timbers and Thorns FC, said in a statement. The partnership “will give us a unique ability to create and distribute content in collaboration with TikTok.”
Beyond the jerseys and marketing, both clubs have launched TikTok accounts and will work with the company on weekly content, including highlights, behind-the-scenes video and fan reactions. Players like Thorns midfielder Crystal Dunn, a U.S. national team veteran, and Timbers midfielder Eryk Williamson will serve as influencers and club ambassadors on the platform. Financial terms of the deal were not announced.
TikTok has exploded in popularity, especially among young Americans, an elusive demographic for almost everyone in sports. MLS has a younger audience than most of its peers and has prioritized deals that expand its presence on platforms that U.S. soccer fans are already using daily.
MLS first started letting teams sell jersey patches for the 2020 season, part of a four-year pilot program. That program has since expanded to both sleeves as the league and its teams face revenue shortages related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, TikTok’s U.S. business was jeopardized last fall when then-President Donald Trump accused it of being a front for the Chinese government and tried to ban it in America. Oracle and Walmart later agreed to purchase a chunk of the company in a deal that was blessed by Trump but has since been tabled under a security review by President Joe Biden’s administration.