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Timbers announce Alaska Airlines as sponsor for MLS jerseys

Published: Thursday, September 02, 2010, 8:47 AM     Updated: Thursday, September 02, 2010, 5:01 PM
sp.timbersponsor.jpgView full sizeTimber Joey (Webber), the Portland Timbers mascot, revs up his Shindaiwa 757 as the Timbers announce that Alaska Airlines is the team's official airline. The Alaska Airlines logo will be featured on the team's jerseys beginning in March 2011.
The Portland Timbers announced Thursday that Alaska Airlines will be the team's jersey sponsor when the franchise joins Major League Soccer next year.

Flanked by towers of green and white balloons, Timbers owner Merritt Paulson announced the partnership while standing in front of the Alaska Airlines ticket counter at Portland International Airport.

"This was a perfect fit," Paulson said. "Alaska has had a presence in the local area for a long time and so have we. It's definitely a great marriage."

Paulson and Joe Sprague, vice president of marketing for Alaska, perhaps best known for its iconic logo of an Eskimo's face, would not say what the new jerseys will look like.

"I can tell you that we have seen some very exciting design renditions," Sprague said of the uniforms, which will be made by Adidas and unveiled in December. "But we're going to leave that under wraps for now."

Paulson said the similarities -- strong local presence, commitment to the local community and customer service -- between the Timbers and Alaska made for a natural partnership.

"You think long and hard about what company you're going to put on your team's jersey," Paulson said. "It's not just about a commercial decision."

Another source of mutual interest was the airline supporting a franchise initiative that backs several youth-based fitness and educational programs. The company also pledged to donate 25 game-day tickets to underprivileged local youths at every home game and will be the presenting sponsor for all MLS and Timbers youth soccer camps.

Paulson said the team had targeted Alaska as a potential major sponsor a long time ago.

"We wanted to do a deal with a local company that had a big local presence," Paulson said. "There's not many local companies that can do a deal of this magnitude."

Negotiations began months ago and the end result is for the first time in MLS history, a domestic airline has sponsored a MLS club. Exact terms of the multi-year deal were not announced.

"We were impressed with the Timbers and how they are bringing the soccer team up to the MLS level," Sprague said. "We're excited that there will be another major league (sports franchise) in the Portland area. It was an opportunity we couldn't pass up."

Paulson said while the team would prefer to develop sponsorships and partnerships with local businesses such as the previously announced major sponsorship deal with Burgerville, he wouldn't rule out a connection with a national company.

"Our stated mission is to do local deals when we can. That's not to say that a national company whose focus is on Portland might not be participating with us," Paulson said. "It's certainly advantageous and important to us to do deals with companies that have a real focus and commitment to Portland."

Of Alaska and Horizon's 9,800 workers, 2,300 live in the Portland area. Alaska Airlines and sister airline Horizon Air carry more passengers in and out of Portland International Airport than any other airline.

The Timbers' current Nike jerseys are sponsored by Solarworld during this season in a one-year deal. Toyota sponsored the team's jersey for four years in a deal that ended after the 2009 season.

The other significant Timbers sponsorship still to be determined is the sale of naming rights for PGE Park. Team officials announced recently that they are in negotiations with a few businesses on that matter.

The stadium's 10-year agreement with Portland General Electric is up after this year, which coincides with renovations that will create a suitable venue for the Timbers' move to MLS.

-- Geoffrey C. Arnold

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autzenbeta September 02, 2010 at 9:25AM

I demand a section of PGE Park be referred to as The Mile High Club.

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pounder September 02, 2010 at 10:05AM

The key question: how much for the sponsorship?

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USAdownthedrain September 06, 2010 at 7:01AM

OK, that's it, I'm flying Southwest from now on!

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duckinnone September 02, 2010 at 10:18AM

Timber Army and an Airline Company..... Time for the marketing savvy people to begin the silly search for some cross promotion.

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daaaaave September 02, 2010 at 11:18AM

Return of the Spruce Goose?

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varchild September 02, 2010 at 12:10PM

daaaaave is brilliant

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siram September 02, 2010 at 1:43PM

Good deal in getting a shirt sponsor so early, some current MLS teams do not have one

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statto September 02, 2010 at 9:31PM

Personally, hoping for a Timbers-themed plane. I mean if Boise State gets one...

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