Cords' Commercial World of Sport.

A midweek encounter between Orlando City and Inter Miami would, in normal circumstances, only have made headlines if owner David Beckham had turned up with a new haircut – and a mask of course - to watch his team from the Magic City in action.

The opening match in the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando this week was, like the Premier League, played behind closed doors with no fans in the ground.

The reason it sparked so much interest was not because of what happened between the players on the pitch, more what the MLS had superimposed on it.

A mammoth Adidas logo was prominent on the centre circle in a first for football. The MLS found a loophole in FIFA’s rules that prohibit team branding or advertising of any sort to be painted on the playing surface by digitally adding their sponsor’s logo. Adidas has been the MLS official kit supplier since 2006 and have been the personal sponsor of one Goldenballs Beckham since his playing days at Manchester United.

Viewers in the US were not impressed. One tweeted: "Honestly tried to watch @MLS but twitching @target ad going over the touchline and then into signboards gave me a massive migraine. Tried to focus on everything else, horrible camera angle, massive @adidas logo but my eyes kept going to target logo twitching and tripped me out."

The Adidas logo was only visible in the US, Sky viewers in this country did not see the projection, but would we have been offended if we did?

In October 2018, UK viewers complained when NFL logos were still visible still at Wembley when temporary tenants Spurs took on Manchester City. The pitch then had taken a battering after the NFL’s annual visit to the capital between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Jacksonville Jaguars had taken place only 24 hours earlier – fast forward two years and Spurs chairman Daniel Levy is now confident that his fantastic new stadium could host Premier League and NFL on the same day using two different playing surfaces.

The complaints in 2018 were because the logos and markings were said to be a distraction. The reality was that they were only a distraction because the action on the pitch was average at best after City scored the only goal of the game after six minutes.

Technology now exists that enables regional advertisers to virtually augment themselves over existing in-stadium perimeter ads during match broadcasts – these same digital perimeter advertising boards were also said to be a distraction when they first appeared at West Ham in 2006, now they are just part of the playing area that are part and parcel of the viewing experience.

So it must only be a matter of time before FIFA – who are not adverse to a sponsorship deal – takes the plunge and allows on-field logos.

Viewers of the Six Nations this year were not surprised or offended by the Guinness logos that appear over the middle of the field to herald that company’s title sponsorship of Europe’s biggest rugby competition, they are used to it. Cricket has also had logos painted onto the outfield but football has, to date, resisted such branding attempts.

The result of Wednesday’s game? Memorable only for Orlando winning 2-1 thanks to an injury-time winner from another former United midfielder Nani but more significant could be that we saw the first real post-lockdown innovation in football sponsorship.

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