SBD/June 1, 2012/Events and Attractions

Intersport Activation Summit: Naming Rights Still Seen As Important Tool For Companies

U.S. Cellular's Alan Ferber insisted the funds go to stadium renovations
Long-term naming-rights deals, though elusive for some new venues, continue to be a vital tool for some companies, not as a short-term marketing fix but as the underpinning of a relationship with both consumers and business partners, said panelists at the 2012 Intersport Activation Summit. “If you designed it to fit a marketing campaign that’s going to come and go, then you’ve missed the mark,” said Van Wagner Sports & Entertainment Exec VP Jeff Knapple. “It’s a long-term proposition. Building brand value with consumers is an every day of the year, every year of the decade job.” U.S. Cellular Exec VP and Chief Strategy & Brand Officer Alan Ferber said that the target when his company originally signed a naming-rights deal with the White Sox nine years ago was to raise awareness about the brand, which was new to the Chicago market. “Naming-rights deals for an existing stadium are particularly tricky,” he said, “especially one with a long-held name like Comiskey Park. We were really specific that we wanted the money to go toward something that created a better fan experience. We said all the money needs to go to renovating the stadium. That’s exactly what happened.” MetLife VP/Global Brand Marketing Richard Hong said that one of the challenges in making a long-term commitment for the stadium that houses the NFL Giants and Jets was future-proofing the deal. “It’s the part where people get awfully creative about what the future may bring in terms of changes to the sport, how it’s broadcast [and] what technology may bring,” he said.

CHANGING ENVIRONMENT: Hong suggested that companies “assume that the environment will change and program some kind of open period where the parties can come back together and, in the spirit of the partnership, reassess what is going on.” Gillette Sports Marketing Global Dir Greg Via said his company did just that, renegotiating its naming-rights deal for the Patriots’ stadium and then recently renewing the contract. Gillette had originally signed the deal in '02 when it was a stand-alone company, but after being bought by Procter & Gamble in '05, Gillette execs met again with the Patriots to add terms. “When P&G came and bought the company, the dynamics changed, the sales force changed,” Via said. “We don’t activate locally, we now have to activate nationally. So it was a little more complex operation.” Gillette also added signage for the practice field, interview backdrops and practice jerseys into the contract.

QUICK HITS
** Populous Associate Principle Brian Mirakian, on the inventory of sports venues: “The landscape has evolved pretty rapidly. What we have to continually challenge ourselves with is, if we’re going to create buildings and we’re going to bring people from their homes, where they are comfortable and they have their 65-inch plasma and they’re able to check their fantasy stats during a football game, what are we going to do to bring people to these buildings and to create an environment that’s connectable?”

** Knapple, on the future of sports venues: “If we’re going to build these stadiums, new ones specifically, then the more technology drives decision making, the more activation can happen, the more social media can happen, the more a building has to try to be alive 365 days a year. The owners need to think though -- they can’t just build seats any longer, they can’t just build premium spaces anymore -- it’s how they can create a destination.”
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