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Fire Expects Blanco Windfall

The Chicago Fire isn't quite expecting the Beckham-bounce from Cuauhtemoc Blanco the L.A. Galaxy and MLS will receive once David Beckham takes to the field in July, but club GM John Guppy expects Blanco's presence to greatly increase the team's visibility once the Mexico international takes the field for the first time this weekend.

Corporate sponsorships are the name of the game, and while the Fire already benefits from sponsorship money from the likes Anheuser-Busch, Verizon Wireless and Toyota (as part of its naming rights to the team's stadium), a front jersey sponsorship has thus far eluded the club. That said, Blanco's pending arrival has changed things: "The tone of our conversations with corporate America since [Blanco] signed has changed significantly," Guppy said. "I don't think I'm overstating it when I say that the Chicago Fire is becoming one of the most important sports brands for the Hispanic community."

Hispanic market experts agree. "[Blanco] brings a different dimension to the game," said Leo Olper, chief operating officer of Lapiz Integrated Hispanic Marketing in Chicago. "He's like Dennis Rodman - a great player, but there's a whole sideshow that goes with him." And his current run of good form doesn't hurt either: Blanco-like Beckham-has enjoyed something of a resurgence, bagging an impressive 9 goals and 7 assists for Club America in the Mexican Clausura Championship this spring.

Read the whole story at Chicago Business News »

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