Latest Stadium Sponsorship Deals Signal A New Wave of Corporate Dollars

By Jonathan Gordon, a student at the University of Notre Dame’s top-ranked Mendoza College of Business. He is the founder of Sports Analytics Blog, a leading resource on the big data and analytics industry within sports. Jonathan has previously worked with an NFL agent and did freelance research for Couchmans LLP during his semester abroad in London.

The delicious sounding Smoothie King Center is now home to the New Orleans Pelicans.

Stadium naming sponsorships have become so commonplace that it is the rare exception when a team does not play under a corporate logo.

Even holdouts like Soldier Field, Dodger Stadium, and Fenway Park are plastered with sponsors’ names. Corporations enjoy the attention they receive from having their brands on teams’ facilities. On the other side, teams benefit from the millions of dollars in extra revenue they receive from selling their stadiums’ naming rights.

Notably, three teams from three different leagues recently announced new stadium sponsorship deals. Several other teams also appear to be searching for corporate sponsors and may be announcing naming rights deals throughout the year, which warrants a closer examination of the latest stadium naming deals.

Texas Rangers (MLB) – Globe Life Park in Arlington

In early February, the Texas Rangers announced a stadium sponsorship deal with Globe Life, an insurance company. The deal is believed to be worth $50 million over 10 years. The Rangers’ home park, previously named Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, will now be named Globe Life Park in Arlington. This 10-year deal will last until the end of the stadium’s 30-year lease in 2024. Come 2024, it will be interesting to see if the Rangers relocate to a new stadium – and possibly with a new stadium sponsor. The Rangers are “one of the few teams located in a searing summer climate without a roof.” There have been early rumors and reports suggesting a possible stadium relocation.

The initial fan reaction was somewhat mixed. Fans did not fully embrace the new name as some claimed it lacked “pizzaz.” Others admitted that they will still call the stadium Rangers Ballpark. At the same time, however, fans were happy with the additional revenue the deal generated. One fan claimed he’ll “be happy if they use the money for a starting pitcher.”

This is not the first time the Rangers have sold their stadium’s naming rights to a sponsor. In 2004, the Rangers reached a 30-year deal with Ameriquest Mortgage Co. Ameriquest shut down in 2007 and the stadium name was changed to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

Roughly one-third (9) of the MLB teams (30) are currently without a stadium sponsorship. The stadiums are: Angel Stadium of Anaheim, Dodger Stadium, Fenway Park, Marlins Park, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Kauffman Stadium, Wrigley Field, Yankee Stadium and Nationals Park.

New Orleans Pelicans (NBA) – Smoothie King Center

Also in early February, the New Orleans Pelicans announced a stadium sponsorship deal with Smoothie King for the naming rights to New Orleans Arena. The deal is for ten years and is believed to be worth roughly $40 million. Smoothie King has the option to renew the deal for another ten years.

Smoothie King is headquartered in Metaire, Louisiana, roughly seven miles from the stadium.
Only two NBA teams remain without a stadium sponsorship – the New York Knicks (Madison Square Garden) and the Detroit Pistons (Palace at Auburn Hills).

Portland Timbers (MLS) – Providence Park

The Portland Timbers also recently announced a deal for their stadium’s naming rights. The Timbers have partnered with Providence Health and Services, a non-profit health care provider. Previously, the Timbers’ stadium was named Jeld-Wen Field as the naming rights belonged to JELD-WEN Doors and Windows, however the stadium will now be called Providence Park.

The deal is for 15 years, however the financial terms have not been disclosed. According to HVS Convention, Sport & Entertainment Facilities Consulting, stadium sponsorships in the MLS are worth roughly $1-2 million per year.

However, recent deals by the LA Galaxy (more than $7 million per year) and Toronto FC ($2.7 million per year) suggest stadium sponsorships may be worth a bit more – especially for the more valuable MLS teams. Forbes has the LA Galaxy listed as the second most valuable MLS team and Toronto FC as the fifth most valuable. For comparison, the Timbers are listed as the third most valuable team. Two of fifteen MLS stadiums remain without a corporate sponsor – Columbus Crew Stadium and Sporting Park (Kansas City).

Who’s next?

Who wants to name the home of the worst team in Major League Baseball?

Miami Marlins (MLB): The Marlins appeared to be close to a stadium sponsorship in mid-2011. Plans apparently fell through, however, leaving Marlins Park without a corporate sponsor. The team continued to look for a sponsor through 2012, though they failed to reach any agreement. For a team in much disarray, additional revenue may help field a competitive team. However, with businesses refusing to open nearby Marlin Park and the team rumored to be the worst in baseball in 2013, corporations may be hesitant to attach their brand to such a negative image. That said, the team seems focused on finding a sponsor for their extravagant stadium.

San Jose Earthquakes (MLS): The Earthquakes are scheduled to move into their new stadium by November. Team president David Kaval has frequently mentioned the ongoing search for a stadium sponsor. “We’re in several advanced conversations with both jersey and [stadium] naming-rights partners,” Kaval said. “Some are considering both properties, and so we want to make sure that we get the right partner.”

Atlanta Falcons (NFL) and Atlanta Braves (MLB): Both teams are scheduled to play in new stadiums by 2017. The Falcons will be playing in a $1.2 billion architectural masterpiece just south of its current stadium, the Georgia Dome. The Braves are relocating to a new stadium in a suburb outside of Atlanta with construction beginning in the second half of 2014. These new opportunities, coupled with the need for financing, present an optimal time for these Atlanta franchises to find stadium sponsors.

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