Guest Opinion: LA Galaxy sponsor Herbalife can’t hide behind marketing

Controversy over LA Galaxy sponsor Herbalife has become a recurring theme, but has reached new heights in recent weeks with government agencies seemingly stumbling over each other to investigate the company’s questionable business practices.

The below op-ed piece on the issue was written by retired local public school teacher John Fernandez, a member of the Full Rights for Immigration Coalition and a member of a group that runs a Tumblr blog called StopHerbalLIES:

fernandezmugNo slick marketing can change the score on the board.

 That’s a lesson that Herbalife is going to learn as it tries to hide its predatory business practices behind its sponsorship of the LA Galaxy. It’s not uncommon in marketing for a corporation to try and attach itself to a cause that is more popular than itself.  But the consumer should still be careful when the corporation buying the marketing follows a set of values very different from the product they are endorsing.
  
No amount of cosmetic marketing can cover the fact that Herbalife is a $4.8 billion company, in large part due to the Latino community, which accounts for more than 60 percent of distributors. Yet more than 80 percent of those distributors make nothing and less than 4 percent make more than a thousand a year.
 
This is a rip-off for Latinos. Slick marketing can always be exposed as a fraud if the company doing the sponsorship doesn’t follow the values of the product it’s endorsing. 
Remember the outcry during the Oscar Awards?  Ellen DeGeneres used a Samsung phone during the show.  After all, Samsung was sponsoring the awards.  But backstage, she was seen using her own personal iPhone. People felt they had been fooled by a marketing gimmick.
 
Unfortunately for Herbalife, no one is going to be fooled by its gimmicks.  Latinos know the score and they know that Herbalife isn’t playing by the rules.
 
This company essentially offers a predatory sales program that targets disadvantaged groups, including Latinos.  Yet when the new movie on the life of Cesar Chavez was released recently, guess who sponsored some of the early screenings?  Herbalife.  No one was fooled then and no one will be fooled by the sponsorship of the Galaxy. This isn’t about Herbalife embracing the Latino community; this is about Herbalife taking advantage of the Latino community.  Even the Federal Trade Commission has its doubts, recently launching an investigation into Herbalife’s operations, a move followed by an FBI probe, as well. 
 
The company aggressively targets lower-income Latinos with little to no business experience, including undocumented workers, who are in desperate need of a paycheck to support their families. With false get-rich-claims, they are luring these trusting, unsuspecting individuals into what we believe is an illegal pyramid scheme. Herbalife’s business model incentivizes recruitment rather than selling products, leaving those at the bottom with no recruits – and no income.
 
As we kick off the 2014 MLS soccer season, I take joy in the fact that the sport uniquely unites us. Soccer itself teaches teamwork, discipline and accountability.  Ironically, these values could not be more different from the values of Herbalife.  So while Herbalife helps bring soccer to our communities, it is simultaneously bringing us a predatory business model that is economically weighing us down.
 
It’s time for companies like Herbalife to quit saying they support Latinos with their words while they work to undermine Latinos with their actions.  If Herbalife really wants to endorse the Latino community, it should stop its predatory business practices immediately.  Now that would be a winning score for everyone. 
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LA Galaxy unveils “Undefeated” clothing line

It’s called the LA Galaxy x Undefeated 2014 Field Collection and is available beginning Friday at StubHub Center and Undefeated.com

Here’s more from the Galaxy press release:

Under the direction of Major League Soccer (MLS), Undefeated reinterpreted the official club logos and emblems of the LA Galaxy, working closely with the league and the club to craft a collection that displays the power and prowess the Galaxy represents and the attention to detail that Undefeated prides itself on.

 

The collaboration is laced with competition iconography; re-appropriating the team’s hard-won championship stars and the team’s classic shield as a symbol of on-the-field patriotism. From fleece to tees, hats and scarves, the collection pulls from the concept of the warriors through history – from early man to the martial arts, classic military markings to primeval survival insignia. Playing on themes of victory and virtue inherent in the Undefeated brand, the collaboration reflects the personal drive of the Galaxy, a team that has taken home four MLS Cup titles since 2002.

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Topps releases 2014 Major League Soccer cards

cobitoppsThe 240-card MLS set includes Mexican national team stars (yes, I don’t get the connection either other than it’s a World Cup year and they want to sell a lot of cards) and retired MLS greats like the Galaxy’s Cobi Jones, left.

A checklist of all the available cards is here (and wouldn’t you just know a certain former Galaxy player is No. 1).

Also, bad luck on now former Chivas USA defender Carlos Borja, waived last week while in his third stint with the club (his card is No. 9), while the Galaxy’s Jose Villarreal is also included although it’s unclear whether he will return from his year-long loan to Cruz Azul or not, since the Mexican club has an option to purchase him.

A review of the card set is here.

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English Premier League setting viewing records on NBCSN

EPLlogoLast Sunday’s Manchester-United clash was the fifth most-watched EPL game ever on cable, according to NBCSN.

The sports network announced that an average of 779,000 viewers watched Liverpool dismantle once-mighty United 3-0.

NBCSN has had four of the top five most-watched EPL games in cable history in the two years since it began broadcasting.

The game was part of a doubleheader with the north London Arsenal-Spurs derby and an average of 725,000 viewers watched both games, making it the top-viewed cable doubleheader in EPL history.

To put all these figures in perspective, consider that the 37 MLS games on NBCSN in 2013 averaged a puny 112,000 viewers, according to Wikipedia.

And, just to get you ready early for the upcoming slate of games this coming weekend in the EPL, which includes a match between first-place Chelsea and third-place-Arsenal Saturday, check out the comprehensive, stat-packed preview to all the games here.

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Tuesday Kicks: Mexico’s Jorge Campos and other retired greats to play in Los Angeles and more

*Exhibition games involving Latin American clubs and players have a spotty history of actually happening (to put it mildly) in Los Angeles, so buyer beware, but an April 26  indoor game featuring retired stars from Mexico and El Salvador was announced today at a press conference at the Coliseum.

Players will include former Galaxy greats Jorge Campos and Mauricio Cienfuegos, former Chivas USA stars Claudio Suarez and Ramon Ramirez and former D.C. United striker Raul Diaz Arce.

Tickets to ShowGoal Los Angeles, as it’s called, go on sale Thursday starting at $25.

*The Galaxy made their opponents look good this weekend on the field and off it. After Real Salt Lake left Southern California with a 1-0 Saturday, goalscorer Joao Plata earned the top spot in the Castrol Index and RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando was ranked third after saving Robbie Keane’s penalty kick.

Chivas USA defender Bobby Burling, who scored the winner over the Chicago Fire Sunday, checked in at No. 6. The Castrol Index is here.

*Finally, Galaxy President Chris Klein was named to the Sports Business Journal’s 40 under 40 list.

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UCLA Professor Slams LA Galaxy, AYSO sponsor Herbalife for Exploiting Latinos

RonaldoherbalifeIn an op-ed column that ran in the nine-newspaper Los Angeles News Group today, UCLA labor professor Victor Narro slammed Galaxy sponsors Herbalife for taking advantage of economically disadvantaged Latinos as part of its routine business practices and called for a state investigation into the issue.

messi-herbalifeLeft unsaid in the column is that the primary sponsor of the Anschutz Entertainment Group-owned LA Galaxy and the Harbor Gateway-based American Youth Soccer Organization is Herbalife.

These are natural sponsorships given the U.S. Latino population’s love for soccer, but clearly raises questions about the economic relationship between the company, the sport and a vulnerable demographic group.

Herbalife is no stranger to controversy and government investigations, but it appears AYSO, MLS and the Galaxy are much more interested in looking the other way given the millions the company contributes to soccer in this country (and around the world for that matter as the Herbalife ads illustrating this blog post demonstrate).

While we’re on the subject of questionable business practices, it should be noted that Galaxy rivals Chivas USA shouldn’t be gloating over this negative publicity either. That club’s owner, Jorge Vergara, has enriched himself with a Mexican version of Herbalife dubbed Omnilife that uses a pretty much identical marketing scheme.

And lest I forget, this kind of stuff seems endemic to soccer with Real Salt Lake recently exchanging one sponsor for another multilevel marketing company.

Incidentally, I invite a response from the Galaxy,  MLS, Chivas USA, Real Salt Lake or AYSO either in the comment section on this blog or in a separate post.

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Club America-Club Tijuana to meet in Carson

xoloslogoclubamericalogoTickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Wednesday for a December friendly between the two most recent Mexican league champions at StubHub Center in Carson that’s being billed as the Los Angeles Clasico.

The two Liga MX champions — the upstart Xolos of Tijuana, which won the Apertura, and Mexico City giants Club America, which took the Clausura — will meet for the first time in Southern California when they meet in a 5 p.m. Dec. 28 game, officials announced today.

The contest is a pre-season friendly so the usual restrictions apply when it comes to seeing regular starters for a full 90 minutes (it won’t happen), for instance, but the game is sure to be a hot ticket for local fans.

Southern California-based Mexican Americans will naturally quickly scoop up tickets, but U.S. internationals Herculez Gomez, Edgar Castillo and Joe Corona play regularly for the Xolos, broadening the appeal of the clash . Club America boasts 10 Mexican internationals on its squad.

Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles played the Galaxy earlier this year, while Club America played Atlas in Carson last year.

The Xolos have one title to their credit since their 2007 founding, Club America a league record 11.

Call 888-929-7849 for tickets.

 

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Soccer Saturday: Downtown Los Angeles seeks soccer stadium & more

  • It doesn’t sound like Chivas USA know a thing about it, but that didn’t stop LA city officials from dropping the club’s name in connection with a rather pie in the sky plan for a downtown soccer stadium.
  • The U.S. Women’s Team is back in action tonight with Hermosa Beach resident Abby Wambach closing in on a famous Mia Hamm mark.
  • The Galaxy’s Jose Villarreal was on target in the U-20′s final game before the World Cup gets underway.
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