Sports Stadium Names Grab Really Big Bucks

by Sean Hackbarth

2006 was a banner year for sports stadium naming rights. Citibank agreed to fork over $400 million over 20 years to call the to-be-built New York Mets stadium CitiField. Action is also happening on the West Coast with Cisco and Oracle. This amounts to a boom for pro sports. Chris Isidore reports,

The average annual value for the 12 deals that were signed last year or first took effect in 2006 is $5.25 million, 61 percent above the average value of the new stadium rights deals from 1999.

The money keeps rolling in 2007 with Barclays paying $400 million to slap their name on the new basketball arena being built in Brooklyn.

Some places are untouchable:

The planned stadium that has perhaps the greatest naming rights potential is the new Yankee Stadium now under construction across the street from the existing park. But while fans can expect to see various gates, concourses and banks of seats, such as the bleachers, carrying sponsors’ names, one executive involved in the planning of the stadium insists that the team will not put a corporate name on the park itself.

The Yankees have learned that building their fans’ affection for the team’s history and tradition is a powerful marketing tool that has helped them improve revenue. But not having a sponsor’s name on the new park probably does mean the team is leaving hundreds of millions of dollars on the table.

“This really is a bow to tradition,” said the executive, who spoke on the condition that his name not be used. “There’s no market study that says if you change the name you reduce the value of the Yankees’ brand.”

The same can be said for the Frozen Tundra at Lambeau Field. In Green Bay fans are willing to walk through corporate-sponsored gates (Verizon Wireless, Miller) but there would be deep rumblings if they started walking into Coca-Cola Lambeau Field.

In the case of the Milwaukee Brewers’ Miller Park beer and Milwaukee are synonymous. The brand and the city fit so well. In Green Bay there is no nationally-known business. The city is known for the Packers. No local company could afford the sky-high price to Lambeau Field (if it were for sale) and an outsider’s name wouldn’t feel right.

“A Stadium Name Bubble?”

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