Target has promoted Rick Gomez to executive vice president and chief marketing officer, effective Jan. 29.
Gomez, who will be responsible for advancing Target’s brand positioning and spearheading the integration of its marketing programs, will supervise marketing and media strategy, creative, marketing communications, guest research, loyalty, corporate communications and corporate social responsibility initiatives. Gomez replaces former Target CMO Jeff Jones, who left the retailer in August to join ride-sharing startup Uber.
Target also announced Thursday it is becoming an official partner of Major League Soccer as well the official jersey sponsor of its Minneapolis-based franchise Minnesota United FC.
Gomez joined Target in 2013, and the company credited him for driving some of its most notable marketing efforts, including award-winning live commercials during the 2015 and 2016 Grammy’s telecasts and the marketing communications for its wildly popular Lilly Pulitzer partnership.
Gomez's promotion to the CMO role coincides with the launch of Target's partnership with MLS, described as a “multi-year deal that includes airtime during MLS broadcasts on Univision, FOX Sports and ESPN, opportunities for in-stadium experiences, player appearances and ownership of certain major MLS platforms, which will be unveiled at a later date.” Minnesota United FC will unveil a new jersey emblazoned with the familiar Target bullseye logo in late February; the retailer's sponsorship also includes on-field and event branding.
Target announced the arrangements as part of a series of national, local and charitable initiatives including a partnership with and financial support of U.S. Youth Soccer, and a $75,000 grant to the U.S. Soccer Foundation. Target is calling this its largest-ever team sports push, but the retailer has been pretty prominent in that area already. The Minnesota Twins play their MLB games at Target Field, while Target Center hosts the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves, the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx and a number of other teams and other stuff. Somehow, US Bank grabbed the naming rights to the Minnesota Vikings’ new stadium before it could become Target Coliseum, and TCF Bank already has branded the park (pitch?) where Minnesota United FC plays, but we’d say Target (which is based in Minneapolis, if you haven’t caught on) has done pretty well associating its brand with an array of teams.
That said, this seems like a very good time for the retailer to forge its MLS and United FC partnerships. The MLS has rebounded from tough financial times, and soccer is more popular than ever in the U.S. It's especially popular with younger demographics, mobile users and heavy users of social media — groups that are very desirable to many retailers.
Target could use the energy boost right about now, too. The retailer recently lowered its guidance for 2016 earnings after a same-store sales dip for the holiday shopping period. Putting its brand in high-profile spots, including on jerseys — which it wouldn't be able to do in most other professional sports leagues — could help it reach new shoppers and allow it to renew and refine its image among shoppers who think they already know what the Target brand is all about.
The funding of youth soccer programs, while a nice corporate philanthropy story, is also an investment in Target's future. Those young soccer players will be shopping with their own money at some point — maybe even on a Minnesota United FC jersey with a big red bullseye on it.