Naming-rights musical chairs!

Maybe it’s just end-of-year contract cancellation time, but this week has seen a relative whirlwind of naming-rights reversals: A national pizza chain announced it was taking its name off of FC Dallas‘ soccer stadium, while the Indiana Pacers‘ arena got a new name thanks to a corporate renaming, the Miami Dolphins‘ stadium is getting one thanks to its namesake company closing up shop in the U.S., and the Sacramento Kings‘ arena could get one depending on how its sponsor’s bankruptcy proceedings go.

All of which is pretty much old hat in the sports world by now — this will be the eighth name for the Miami stadium in 25 years — but it does make you wonder how much brand value a stadium name when nobody can remember what it’s called. (Quick, anyone: Where do the Oakland Raiders play?) So far, companies still seem willing to throw their name onto any building that might get it on the lips of national sportscasters — just look at the San Diego Chargers‘ stadium, which got a new name that will last only from last Sunday through next Wednesday in order to promote its usual sponsor’s new cellphone chip at three major football games. But how long will it last, especially if announcers stop making as many references to stadium names-of-the-week.

It’s possible to imagine, even, a world where entire articles could be written about stadiums without ever bothering to mention who has paid to advertise on their sides. But no, that could never happen.

8 comments on “Naming-rights musical chairs!

  1. Raiders play in, but since I live in Northern California, I’m expected to know that.

    Nevertheless, I still googled ‘ stadium’ to make sure before I responded to your challenge.

  2. I find the naming rights deal for Sacramento to be especially embarrassing. What I’m really hoping is that the judge reviewing this case rejects the sale and closes the company completely.

    It’s a fraudulent product.

  3. It may make marketing sense to sign a long term (10-20 year) naming rights deal with a club opening brand new state of the art facility as you’ll get some brand identification from such an act. However, it sure doesn’t pay to purchase naming rights for a few weeks, months or even 2 or 3 years on a stadium that everyone is just going to call by it’s original (likely non corporate) name anyway.

    Then again, you may recall the original (long term) sponsor at Baltimore’s newish football stadium. I believe they went bankrupt before the end of their second season of ‘ownership’. I wonder if Chris Noth cashed his PSInet checks in time?

    And hey, what ever happened to that nice energy company that smeared it’s logo-feces all over Houston’s baseball stadium a decade or so ago?

  4. Rick Reilly wrote a back-page bit back in 1998 or 1999 about Stadium names and how all these companies who had their name branded on new stadiums saw sharp reductions in their share prices. While there was a strong correlation, I’m not certain there was any causation. But perhaps a company with the foresight to think that giving up a few million a year to have their local ballpark called ENRON Field is a company that’s either a) on the up-and-up looking to cover their tracks or b) not very wise.

    Nevertheless in this economy I can’t imagine how giving up gobs of money to name a building in some second or third class city is a smart investment.

  5. Darren Rovell’s written a ton on the “naming-rights curse,” too. My sense is the causation runs the other way: Companies that pay to stick their names on stadium are more likely to be newbies desperate for some name recognition, and thus also more likely to go under. This was particularly true in the 1990s, when you had a string of dot-coms buying stadium names (remember PSINet Stadium?), and then quickly disappearing, because that’s what dot-coms did.

  6. Probably a minor issue, but Sac missed the Dec 22 date to get its parking RFQ out. It was delayed until Jan 9. I can’t see how an 18 day delay helps, though. It will be interesting to hear the reasons for the delay, which was announced on Dec 23… To get into a slow news day?