How to Win Big with Sponsorship Naming Rights

Bank of America Stadium, Wells Fargo Center, Gillette Stadium. What do those three buildings have in common besides hosting sports games of huge proportions? That’s right, it’s that each arena is named after a company instead of a local landmark or a piece of historical relevancy. In this case, those companies are two banks and a shaving razor brand.

Naming rights in sports sponsorship can be very incentivizing. Still, it’s an opportunity that sponsors may pass up if you don’t frame it right. How do you successfully sell sponsorship naming rights?

Here’s how to score a slam dunk with sponsorship naming rights:

  • Know your budget
  • Choose the building smartly
  • Recognize that a name is more than just that
  • Have the right contractual provisions
  • Understand how naming rights payments may work

Navigating naming rights can be a tricky topic, but not with the guidance I’m going to present in this article. I’ll talk about naming rights in detail and delve into why sponsorship naming rights are so beneficial. I’ll also circle back around to the above tips so you can score some major points in sponsorship naming rights!

What Are Naming Rights?

Naming rights are like a long-term advertisement. You sell a sponsor the right to their name being put on a building, often a sports arena. Then your sponsor’s name could become the next Gillette Stadium or Wells Fargo Center.

For smaller, less instantly recognizable buildings, shorter-term naming rights deals are available, such as those that last three years. The bigger and more high-profile the building is, the longer-term the deals usually are. In those cases, a naming rights deal can last upwards of 20 years, sometimes longer.

In title-sponsored naming rights, whatever the original property’s name was is completely erased in exchange for the new sponsored building title. With presenting-sponsored naming rights, you take a traditional arena name and add the brand to either the beginning or end of the name. For example, take the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.

Although it doesn’t exist anymore (it’s been torn down), the Metrodome in Minneapolis had many names over the years. Back in 2009, it was called the Mall of America Field at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome when Mall of America bought the building’s naming rights. Whew, that name sure was a mouthful! After Mall of America’s naming rights term ended, the building went back to just being called the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.

If you can’t name a building, you can always claim naming rights for a sporting event. The Division 1 college football games used traditional names for a long time, but have since begun favoring sponsored naming rights such as The Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual or the Capital One Orange Bowl. Some college division games have embraced title-sponsored naming rights. As an example, the Camping World Bowl once was the Tangerine Bowl.

Naming rights deals, when done right, can be hugely, hugely valuable. I’m talking multi-million-dollar deals in some cases. So far, the most expensive naming rights deal in history was that between the Bank of Nova Scotia in Canada and the Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment company. In 2017, the two businesses penned a deal worth CAD $800 million that would last for 20 years. In American dollars, that’s $635.84 million.

I do want to make it clear: not all naming right deals need to be so enormously expensive. Smaller deals for lesser-known stadiums can be just as mutually beneficial to the sponsor and your sports team or organization.

Non-Sports Naming Rights Examples

Although the focus of this article going forward will be on sports, I wanted to prove that other industries use naming rights as well.

Public transit stations are a big naming rights business, especially in major cities such as Philadelphia, New York, San Francisco, Las Vegas, or Boston. In these states, you might hop aboard public transport at the Penn Medicine Station or the NRG Station named after the energy company.

Tampa even allows you to name rolling stock and streetcar stations should you want to!

High-rise office towers, office complexes, major malls, hospital treatment centers or wards, college dining halls, libraries, performing arts centers, and museums are other areas where naming rights certainly come into play.

Oh, and a newly discovered monkey species was once in a bidding war for naming rights, with the winner paying $650,000 to name the simian. The name? The GoldenPalace.com monkey. Yes, I’m serious!

How to Win Big with Sponsorship Naming Rights

You’ve discussed it amongst the members of your sports team or organization and you’ve decided that you want to proceed with sponsorship naming rights. You can win big, but like anything in sponsorship, that’s not guaranteed. These tips will help you maximize your chances at success so your next sponsorship might be a grand slam!

Know Your Budget

Of all the assets you can offer a target sponsor, naming rights may be among the most appealing, but they’re also one of the most expensive. Your sports team must have the budget for naming rights, and not just now, but in the future as well.

You’ll be the one to present the terms of the sponsorship naming rights deal, so think about it for a while. If you can only afford three years of naming rights, that’s okay, as it’s better than nothing. Just be clear about that in your sponsorship package. It’s also fine if you can’t provide the target sponsor naming rights to an arena with a capacity of 65,000+ people like Gillette Stadium.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to be realistic when budgeting for sponsorship naming rights. I say this on the blog a lot, but one of the worst things you can do in sponsorship is overpromise and underdeliver.

If you’re honest about what you can offer a sponsor, sooner or later, someone will bite. Yet if you promise too much, get a big-name sponsor, and then fail to live up to the naming rights you said you’d provide, you lose out on that sponsor. You also could be in breach of contract with the sponsor. The financial repercussions, as well as the ding to your reputation, can spell the end of your sports team.

Choose the Building Smartly

In naming rights sponsorship, you have to look into the crystal ball often and predict what the future will hold. That especially comes into play when selecting which building will be the one that your sponsor will provide naming rights for. Sure, a prediction is just that and not a guarantee, but you must have at least a decent idea of what’s coming down the pike.

If you promise your sponsor 10 years of naming rights and two years into the deal, you’re approached by the building contractors and told that the arena is being torn down, you’re now up the creek without a paddle. You promised the sponsor eight more years and they’re not going to get it.

Unless you can come up with a similar building in a very short amount of time, then you again risk being in breach of contract.

When choosing a building for naming rights, you want to look at more than just the cost. How old is the building? Has it been recently renovated? Is it still a popular place? Are there plans to expand around the stadium, possibly adding a second arena? The answers to these questions will determine how viable a building you’ve selected.

Recognize That a Name Is More Than Just That

When you provide naming rights to a sponsor, you’re selling them more than simply a title on a basketball stadium. The names of these buildings become interwoven into the fabric of the city or town in which the stadium resides. This provides ample opportunity for partnerships with local retailers and others within the community.

The sponsor won’t mind this, as now they’re opening up even more potential revenue streams, so make sure you anticipate these opportunities.

Have the Right Contractual Provisions

I have to talk about the legalities of sponsorship naming rights as well. In your contract, you should offer the sponsor exclusivity provisions to further sweeten the deal. These provisions prevent the local competition from sponsoring and/or advertising in a way that detracts from the sponsor’s naming rights.

You’ll need to provide prominence provisions as well, sometimes referred to as dominance provisions. As those names suggest, a prominence provision ensures that all advertising and signage for the sponsor is displayed more often than any other sponsors. Their digital displays will outsize all advertising and shine more brightly, quite literally in this instance. The placement of the signage will be recurring and highly visible as well per the prominence provisions.

Understand How Naming Rights Payments May Work

Naming rights sponsorship payments don’t always occur upfront. Instead, if you score a high-dollar deal, the sponsor might make payment installments throughout the deal’s term. So if the sponsor bought six-figure or even seven-figure naming rights, it can take upwards of 10, 20, sometimes even 30 years before all those zeros are in your sports team’s bank account.

Talk to your sponsor about this, as many sponsors have found workarounds so more of the money is in the sports team’s pocket faster. Maybe the sponsor pays through bonds if that’s possible.

The Benefits of Sponsorship Naming Rights

Sponsorship naming rights, although not always the easiest to accrue, can really put stars in the eyes of your sponsor if you follow the above tips. Here are some of the perks of naming rights that the target sponsor reaps, as can your sports organization or team.

Free Advertising

The word “free” is so appealing, especially to sponsors. Okay, so they’re spending thousands, maybe tens of thousands or even millions of dollars for the advertising that comes through naming rights, but it’s free in that they don’t have to work for it.

Rather than stretching themselves even thinner with lead gen, the sponsor knows that for the next couple of years or even the next several decades, their name will be proudly displayed on a large building in a popular town. The kind of customer growth this can lead to can be astronomical!

Fantastic Brand Building

As I talked about in my introductory post on sponsorship naming rights, having naming rights for a sports building can be a great means of building a sponsor’s brand. Anytime that a major sporting event happens at the stadium, advertisers have to say the stadium name in full. Over and over, consumers will hear the sponsor’s name in relation to the event.

If it’s a large event that’s promoted early, then this kind of promotions spree could last for weeks if not months. Then, as more successful sporting events are hosted at this arena, the name builds up more, as does the positive association with your brand name.

Great Relevancy

The struggle to stay relevant is one that companies of all sizes experience. Trends come and go but companies that want to stick around in the long-term must find a way to outlive trends so they can continue making money.

What better way is there to stay relevant than penning a multi-year deal for sponsorship naming rights? Like with the free promotions, the sponsor’s relevancy takes care of itself. They can just sit back and bask in the glory.

Helps the Local Teams

Not all the perks go to the sponsor, of course. If the newly-minted stadium is flourishing, then the teams that play there will do so as well. This relationship goes both ways. If you can have a large sports team play at the sponsor’s arena, think of what that can do for boosting brand awareness and relevancy. It could be huge!

Conclusion

Sponsorship naming rights are a very valuable asset to offer in the realm of sports and even public transportation. Having the budget for a profitable naming rights deal is key, as is choosing a building that’s likely to still be standing several decades from now. Best of luck!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chris Baylis is the President and CEO of The Sponsorship Collective and a self-confessed sponsorship geek.

After several years as a sponsor (that’s right, the one investing the money!) Chris decided to cross over to the sponsorship sales side where he has personally closed tens of millions of dollars in sponsorship deals. Chris has been on the front lines of multi-million dollar sponsorship agreements and has built and coached teams to do the same.

Chris now spends his time working with clients to value their assets and build strategies that drive sales. An accomplished speaker and international consultant, Chris has helped his clients raise millions in sponsorship dollars.

Connect with Chris via: The Sponsorship Collective | Twitter | LinkedIn