The What? Park/Arena/Stadium
The issue is about the naming rights and sponsorships at athletic facilities. It popped up in my mind after the UNC-Chapel Hill athletics board recommended that sponsorhip in major campus venues be pushed forward in to the presentation process for final approval by the Board of Trustees at UNC Chapel Hill.
Since UNC Chapel Hill was one of the last elite-level D-1 NCAA schools to passively prohibit advertising in it's venues, it will be a different spectator experience at cozy Kenan Stadium and the Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill. And yes, the advertising dollars will pick up a lot of the expenses that are no longer able to be supported by restrained athletic budgets. However, my questions are steered toward advertisers.
When analyzing your return on event and facility sponsorship, do you really get a adequate return on your marketing dollars with advertising in public arenas? If the product is not specifically targeted toward the fan base watching the event, is it really worth your shareholders' advertising dollars?
To answer these questions, I turned to a great article in Sunday's New York Times by Richard Sandomir, which addressed the issue of stadium sponsorhip.
The article presented several bizarre cases of stadium sponsorship, and I was bewildered by the following marketing dollar amounts paid by companies. Minute Maid, which replaced Enron's sponsorship of the Houston Astros' field, paid over $170 Million. American Airlines paid not only $195 Million for the Dallas Mavericks new arena, but AA also paid for sponsoring the Miami Heat's new arena. FedEx paid $205 Million for the naming rights for the Washington Redskins new field, which will be called FedEX Field, and an even more amazing sum of $300 Million was paid by Reliant Energy for the stadium naming rights of the Houston Texans.
The bottom line question should be what are these corporations really getting from these naming rights? Also, isn't it even more embarassing for a company like SBC Communications that has to rename their naming property, like the case of Pac Bell Park in San Francisco, after a merger, after a takeover, or after a dismal season by the sponsored team?
I thought this was a good quote in the article from Neil Minow, editor of the Corporate Library, an independent research firm that specializes in corporate governance.
"Are they about pride?...Ego?...Are they about schmoozing or returning value to shareholders? I'm not sure that brand recognition, unassociated with the product or service you sell is valuable. If Nike wanted to do it, I could see it, but why a bank would do it is beyond me."
I thought about that quote when I heard Ernie Johnson on NBA Halftime on TNT pronounce the start of the "Gatorade TNT Halftime Show" tonight. Only one word for "Gatorade" for their halftime show...I hope that was a throw-in when they negotiated the package with DDB in Chicago...Because the one word mention of Gatorade in the opening sentence cdidn't create indellible impression about the Gatorade brand in my mind....Not at all...
So, when Wachovia Bank sponsors halftime events at UNC Chapel Hill this fall, I wonder how many new bank accounts will be opened by fresh minded and naive college students. A few of them will open one up, but is it worth the thousands of dollars spent on capturing those minds? I really wonder....