The healthcare group Kaiser Permanente has agreed to pay Golden State Warriors owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber to give the plaza and park outside their new San Francisco arena the name “Thrive City.” That much we know. What we don’t know, after yesterday’s Phil Matier column in the San Francisco Chronicle, could fill volumes:
- How much is Kaiser paying for the naming rights? Matier writes that “the total for the naming rights and other costs could hit $295 million,” but also that Kaiser indicated that “expenses ‘associated with Thrive City would be about $2.5 million a year,’” which would come to a present value of about $31 million. Clearly that’s a big difference! The larger figure is apparently from a December 2016 meeting of the Kaiser board’s finance committee, which included a single line recommended “the expenditure in an amount not-to-exceed $295.58 million for the Golden State Warriors sponsorship strategy over a twenty-year period.” The smaller figure is what Kaiser’s PR officer is claiming. The truth is either somewhere in the middle, or off to either side, because neither of these are exactly watertight financial figures.
- What will Kaiser get for its money? The name of the park and plaza, certainly, but “sponsorship strategy” implies that Kaiser is also buying arena ad signage or the right to be the official health insurer of the Warriors or uniform ad patches or god knows what. So it’s tough to put a number on the actual naming rights.
- Why “Thrive City” of all things? “Thrive” is a Kaiser wellness program/branding strategy that involves cutting healthcare costs by promoting healthier living and, for some reason, running marathons dressed as a lobster. One hopes that the company was smart enough to include in its deals with the Warriors the right to change the name of the plaza to something else if Thrive is abandoned or rebranded in the next 20 years, which seems extremely likely given the shelf life of corporate subbrands.
Whatever the actual amount of money changing hands in exchange for what, this does hint at how on earth the Warriors owners are planning to make back their new arena’s $1.4 billion construction cost. They’re already getting about $15 million a year in naming rights from Chase Bank, so if you add in plaza naming rights and new ad signage and corporate logos on anything not nailed down, then … even in a white-hot real estate and consumer market like San Francisco, it still seems like a lot of money to spend, but it’s Lacob and Guber’s money, so more power to them if it’s what they want. Though do remember that Warriors president Rick Welts wants you to know that the fact his team is building its own new arena is no reason for other cities not to give public money to their teams’ new arenas, a thing that should keep happening because arenas “enhance the quality of life for residents.”
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Of course, one could also wonder if these naming rights deals, especially to a big empty plaza that is unlikely to get a lot of free TV mentions or whatever naming rights deals are supposed to do for companies, are really worth the expense. That’s what the National Union of Healthcare Workers is complaining, saying that Kaiser would be better off spending money on patient care (money that would flow to union members in the form of paychecks, naturally) at a time when “some patients wait weeks, even months for mental health appointments.” Good thing there’s no such thing as bad publicity, or one might be tempted to conclude that Kaiser had just bought itself $295 million of exactly that.