SBD/August 4, 2011/Facilities

HSBC May Maintain Sabres Arena Naming Rights Despite Selling Branches

HSBC Bank USA's naming-rights deal with the Sabres runs through '27
HSBC Bank USA's naming rights to the Sabres' arena "would seem to make less economic sense now than it did before the bank sold its retail branches in upstate New York," but sports marketing experts said that that "doesn't necessarily mean the bank wants out of its naming rights deal," according to by Phil Fairbanks of the BUFFALO NEWS. HSBC's naming rights contract runs through '27, and some suggested that the benefits the bank "enjoys, most notably national media attention, continue regardless" of its presence in the area. Team Services Principal E.J. Narcise said that most naming-rights deals "have an 'out' clause but that HSBC's commitment to the Sabres is about more than the bottom line." The bank is "showing no signs of wanting to give up its naming rights at the downtown arena and went out of its way to suggest otherwise." Smith College sports economist Andrew Zimbalist said that it is "possible HSBC, given its continued corporate and commercial presence here, might consider the naming rights valuable enough to retain, especially if the price is right." He also "thinks it's possible the bank might use this opportunity to renegotiate its contract with the Sabres." When asked if the bank "might seek changes in its deal with the team," HSBC VP/Public Affairs Neil Brazil "declined to comment, except to suggest that the two sides talk often about their relationship." Sports marketing experts suggested that a "likely scenario would be the addition of new corporate sponsors for the arena." Narcise "thinks HSBC and the Sabres may look at this as a opportunity to share the naming rights' benefits" with other local companies. He mentioned First Niagara Bank, "which is buying 195 HSBC branches, as one possible new partner." First Niagara President & CEO John Koelmel "made it clear this week the bank is interested in establishing a relationship with the Sabres" (BUFFALO NEWS, 8/3).
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