The Sounders are the first Major League Soccer franchise — and among the only teams in North American pro sports — to use brand activation to this degree with a business partner’s product.

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Fans attending the Sounders’ crucial season finale Sunday could be forgiven for thinking the home side’s players had become walking billboards for a video game company.

In fact, that was exactly the team’s intent behind having players don special Gears of War 4 jerseys while transforming CenturyLink Field into a giant theme park extolling the Xbox video game’s virtues. If you think that sounds crass and untraditional for a sports team, it’s probably just your age showing.

Nowadays, such “brand activation’’ marketing is becoming the norm for global companies such as McDonald’s and Coca-Cola. In a media landscape increasingly cluttered by content, brand activation brings a product to life for consumers by actively engaging them with it.

And where the business world goes, professional sports typically follow — some quicker than others.

The Sounders are the first Major League Soccer franchise — and among the only teams in North American pro sports — to use brand activation to this degree with a business partner’s product.

“The days of sticking a sign up in a building and paying millions of dollars a year for it are coming to an end quickly,’’ said Sounders majority owner Adrian Hanauer. “Partners of sports franchises want more creativity. They want more engagement. They want more multilevel, multifaceted components to a partnership that connect their brands with the essence and the emotions of a sports franchise.’’

The Sounders first wore the Pacific blue Gears of War 4 jerseys last month during a road game in Los Angeles. This time, in addition to the uniforms, the team opened six Gears of War 4 kiosks around the stadium where fans could participate in on-site gaming.

Fans could have pictures taken with various characters from the video game. For a fee, they could also have their Pacific blue Sounders jerseys embellished with the Gears of War 4 mark.

Sounders players dressed up in replica gear used by video game’s characters as part of promotional posters. Also, the team gave away Xbox-produced bobbleheads of retiring Sounders forward Zach Scott — wearing the special video game uniform, of course — to the first 20,000 fans attending the contest Sunday.

Microsoft, which owns the Xbox brand, remains a key Sounders partner. The team has donned Xbox jerseys since its inception and in 2014 renewed a partnership with the technology company through the 2018 season.

Hanauer says creating new ways to expand partner opportunities increases the likelihood of the team further extending such corporate deals at more lucrative rates.

Last year, the Sounders became the first MLS squad to change uniforms in-season by wearing jerseys with a Halo 5: Guardians video game theme.

Building an actual pro sports matchup around a video game likely will irk some fans. But considering the history of sports marketing, this isn’t exactly treading on holy ground.

After all, the Anaheim Mighty Ducks were created by Walt Disney Corp. in 1993 as a marketing extension of the Disney film of the same name.

Also, in-game ads have been encroaching on the playing fields of all sports for decades.

NHL traditionalists once cringed at any advertising along blank rink-side boards during the 1970s. Nowadays, barely an inch of white space can be found between corporate logos.

In Major League Baseball, the area behind home plate used to be sacred. Teams for 20 years now have sold ads on rotating signs that flip every half-inning to accommodate as many corporate partners as possible.

This decade, companies have taken to “virtual signage” seamlessly integrating ad images into stadiums and on playing surfaces that can only be seen by fans watching TV broadcasts.

Actual game uniforms had been an untouched ad frontier for North American pro leagues.

But last year, the NFL and Nike designed special Color Rush uniforms for teams playing late-season Thursday games. This year, all but two teams playing Thursdays will wear such uniforms.

Last spring, the NBA told teams it would allow them to sell small advertising patches on jerseys starting in the 2017-18 season.

The Sounders had their Halo uniforms last fall.

“I’m not aware of any top-tier pro sports team in the world that put a video game on their jersey,’’ said Aaron Greenberg, head of Xbox game marketing for Microsoft.

And now, the Sounders are taking the themed uniform thing further by building an entire event day around it. Greenberg said Microsoft wanted a marketing plan that was “different than just putting up signage’’ and could excite young fans about the video game.

“One of the things that we have in common with the Sounders is we’re talking to a lot of the same audience,’’ he said. “Whether it’s families — kids, or adults — that we know are buying the Xbox One console, or the wide variety of games we have, we have a lot of commonality across our audiences.

“Those are the folks going to the Sounders games in the stadium, that are watching the games on TV,’’ he said. “And so, to be able to pay a hot team like the Sounders and be able to associate it with a No. 1 type of video game right now … is just great timing.’’

It helped the marketing effort that pro athletes tend to play video games during down time. Sounders owner Hanauer said many of his players already were Gears of War gamers and didn’t exactly have to be dragged into promotional photo shoots.

“They were so into it,’’ he said. “Obviously, if you can get athletes that are engaged in a really authentic way and excited in your partner’s brand, that amplifies it more instead of them being contractually obligated to wear something.’’

And they’d best get used to it.

The way things are headed in the overlapping sports and business world, next month’s hot video game could wind up a part of next year’s championship victory lap.