Why The Portland Timbers’ New Front Of Jersey Sponsor Is A Massive Win For Soccer City, USA

Seven months ago, Alaska Airlines announced that it would not renew its jersey sponsorship deal with the Portland Timbers, effectively ending a twelve-year partnership. The club wasted little time securing a new sponsor aligned with its core values, but things turned sour fast.

DaBella, a home improvement company based in the Rose City, signed a multi-year agreement with the Green and Gold just a month after the 2023 season ended. Multiple outlets reported that the Timbers’ sales agency responded to DaBella’s cold email within minutes, and a very strong relationship between Dabella CEO Donnie McMillan and the Timbers owner Merritt Paulson sealed the deal.

Just one game into 2024, however, The Oregonian revealed that a former DaBella executive had accused McMillian of sexually harassing at least three female employees. The Timbers cut ties immediately; before you knew it, all DaBella branding was removed from Providence Park. The club even deleted all references to DaBella on their social media and website. 

The past cannot be erased, though. The Timbers’ relationship with sponsors has been rocky ever since a U.S. Soccer investigation in 2022 uncovered that Paulson knew about former Portland Thorns head coach Paul Riley’s sexual harassment of players but chose not to take action. Several local companies, including prominent ones like Directors Mortgage and Union Wine, withdrew their support in response. These events ultimately led Paulson to sell the Thorns to RAJ Sports earlier this year. 

Even if DaBella never did anything wrong, the fact that they were such an unfamiliar face never inspired confidence in the first place.

The front office had to navigate a delicate situation. They’ve been on thin ice with their supporters for some time now, and mishandling more moves could have severe repercussions for the club’s reputation and fan support. They needed to find a reputable and trustworthy replacement, and they did exactly that.

The Tillamook County Creamery Association, an Oregon-based, farmer-owned dairy cooperative, was announced as DaBella’s successor right before the Timbers played the Seattle Sounders (spoiler alert: they lost). The association has been collaborating with the club for the last decade on various promotions, like the giant LED block of cheddar and branded concession stands at Providence Park, which have become fan favorites.

You can tell the partnership was well-received. The Timbers Army now chants “cheese” during the national anthem, and many have flocked to social media to express their support. Club CEO Heather Davis couldn’t be more correct when she said that Tillamook “represents the best of Oregon.”

If the club wants to repair its image, it needs to focus on transparency and integrity while staying away from the controversies that got them in this mess in the first place. One sponsorship won’t fix its reputation entirely, but a string of smart decisions can. This is a great way to start.