Stadium Sponsorships Offer Additional Revenue


What Is In A Name

By John Ventola

Make no mistake, today’s professional athletic franchises and collegiate athletic programs are big business. Each is dependent on a steady revenue flow to guarantee success, both on and off the field. How they reach for that long-term financial viability may differ, but the goals are the same. Money determines stability.

While universities deepen their coffers through name recognition, merchandising arrangements, rising ticket prices, and various fund raising groups, professional teams have the advantage of being able to offer up their stadium marquees to a partner for a lucrative amount.

Today we are seeing this “bottom-line mentality” and management efforts to bring in more revenue by securing naming rights to stadiums and arenas around the country.


The Name Game

Naming rights are a financial transaction and form of advertising whereby a corporation or other entity purchases the right to name a facility. Approximately three quarters of the stadiums/arenas in the country are now entrenched in such a relationship with a corporation or entity.

Professional teams were the first to jump on the money train, but soon college stadiums could be inserting sponsor names in order to increase their annual revenue. Does AT&T Tiger Stadium have a ring to it? Pun intended. However as it stands now, universities are pretty much toeing the line and sticking to naming stadiums after the university (Notre Dame Stadium), former coaches (Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium, Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium), mascots (LSU’s Tiger Stadium), or wealthy contributors (Tulane’s Yulman Stadium for football, Turchin Stadium for baseball, and Fogelman Arena for basketball).

Naming rights have surely changed recently with large amounts of money at stake, but its origins can be traced back to the early 1920s when Fenway Park and Wrigley Field took on the names of the Red Sox and Cubs owners at that time. Fenway was so named because an owner also owned a realty company named Fenway Realty. Wrigley Field was named for the chewing gum magnate and owner of the Cubs at the time. In 1953, Anheuser-Busch head man and St. Louis owner August Busch II tried to have the name of the Cardinals’ old Sportsman Park changed to “Budweiser Stadium”. That idea was rejected by the Commissioner of Baseball, but Busch got an approval on “Busch Stadium”. Guess naming a stadium after a brand of beer was not politically correct, but the beer company itself was acceptable. At least that was the case in those times.

Now we have Coors Field ($1.1 million) in Denver where the Colorado Rockies play baseball; Miller Park ($2.5 million)in Milwaukee, home of the baseball Brewers; and Heinz Field (can I have a hot dog with that ketchup), home of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The New England Patriots play in Foxborough, Massachusetts’ Gillette Stadium ($8.5 million), the Mercedes-Benz Superdome ($8.9 million) houses the New Orleans Saints, Reliant Stadium ($12 million) in Houston is the home of the Texans. The Edward Jones Dome ($3.2 million) in St. Louis is the home stadium of the Rams and has proven to be a solid investment for them.

Sponsorships should provide a win-win situation for both the corporation and the home team franchise, but sometimes it can end in disaster, financially and reputation-wise. Enron was putting forth $3.3 million a year for naming rights on the Houston Astros new stadium. That fell apart as the company came under scrutiny and financial scandal, pushing the Astros to find a new naming partner for the stadium. It took a little sunshine to pull the Astros from beneath the Enron dark cloud. Minute Maid now pays $7.3 million a year to have their brand name associated with the Astros’ park. Tropicana was not going to be outdone and put forth their brand on the Tampa Bay Rays baseball facility in the amount of $2 million a year.

This week’s major league All Star game was played at Target Field in Minneapolis where that city’s Target Corporation pays $5.3 million a year for its naming rights on the stadium, which was opened in 2010. Target also pays $1.8 million to have its name on the Target Center, home of the basketball Minnesota Timberwolves.

Recently, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones allowed AT&T to buy into sharing some of the credit for Jerry’s World by adding their signage to Cowboys Stadium. Price? A cool $19 million a year. The Dallas Cowboys deal matches the monetary arrangement ($19 million) MetLife Stadium has as home for the New York Jets and Giants. The top two sponsorship amounts belong to Barclay’s Center ($20 million), home to the New York basketball Nets, and Citifield ($21 million), home of baseball’s New York Mets. The Barclay and Citifield deals are for twenty years meaning that each sponsorship will pay at least $400 million during that time frame. Even in New York, that is a lot of money.

While I have noted many of the stadiums and arenas that now have name brand sponsorships, this is no means a complete list. Some of the originals, the Staples


Revenue Comes With Naming Rights

Center, home of the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers ($7.4 million a year) and the United Center ($2.4 million) in Chicago (Bulls), were testing grounds for the concept. Others like Yankee Stadium, Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, Dodgers Stadium, and Lambeau Field in Green Bay will remain among the twenty-five per cent of stadiums/arenas in the country without naming deals.

Surely it is clear the large metropolitan areas find their teams on television and in the  news more often so their sponsorships pay larger amounts (New York, Los Angeles Chicago), but there is also a disparity among some two sport cities. In Phoenix, the football Arizona Cardinals garner $8.6 million a year from the University of Phoenix while the basketball Suns only get $970,000 from United Airways. I knew most educational costs have risen considerably, but a U of P diploma? Points out the fact that football is, indeed, a sport more popular than basketball, but it also shows that one sees the Cardinals far more often than the Suns on television and in the media.

“Show me the money” may be a famous movie line, but the idea is very much in play in today’s sports world.

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