SBJ/October 2 - 8, 2006/This Weeks News

Cardinals’ deal boosts naming-rights spirits

Marketing consultant E.J. Narcise let out a sigh of relief when he heard the Arizona Cardinals had struck a $154 million naming-rights sponsorship for their new stadium, the NFL’s second-highest package.

The Cardinals’ Michael Bidwill (left) and the University of Phoenix’s Brian Mueller announce the naming-rights deal for the stadium in Glendale, Ariz., last week.
Narcise is co-owner of Team Services, and he and business partner Fred Fried have helped five NFL teams sell naming rights for their venues, including the Jacksonville Jaguars, their current client. (The Jaguars are looking for a sponsor to rename Alltel Stadium after the telecommunications company decided not to renew its deal.)

Narcise kept his fingers crossed that the Cardinals, despite their on-field struggles and lack of respect nationally, could get “north of $5 million” annually for their facility, which also has the 2007 BCS title game and the 2008 Super Bowl and plans to bid for the NCAA Final Four.

The Cardinals’ contract with the University of Phoenix, a secondary education institution that has thousands of students earning degrees by completing classwork online, is valued at $7.7 annually over 20 years. The 63,400-seat facility is now University of Phoenix Stadium.

Arizona’s agreement is second in the league to Reliant Energy’s 30-year, $300 million deal in Houston.

“That keeps the bar nice and lofty,” Narcise said. “It continues to underscore the strength of NFL properties.”

The deal shouldn’t have much effect in New York, where the Giants and Jets are selling what are expected to be the most expensive naming rights in the major leagues.

“We’re in a unique situation regardless,” said Jeff Knapple, the Wasserman Media Group executive helping the Giants and Jets sell naming rights and four second-tier sponsorships. “It’s never been done before where two teams are doing this together and in the nation’s media capital.”

The NFL hired 16W Marketing’s Frank Vuono in January to sell naming rights for the Louisiana Superdome after Hurricane Katrina damage shut the stadium down. The Saints and the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District, the dome’s landlord, would share that revenue.

“We are talking to a group right now that has a keen level of interest … and are hoping to get it concluded for this season or at least announce a deal in the next few weeks,” Vuono said.

Officials are asking for $6 million a year to rename the 31-year-old dome, and the Cardinals’ deal “strengthens our position that naming rights is still a great value,” Vuono said.

The Superdome reopened for the Saints last month following the fi rst phase of a $185 million reconstruction to restore and improve the building. The national exposure the stadium has received in the last several months should boost the naming-rights effort, said Doug Thornton, regional vice president for SMG, the stadium operator.

“This will continue to be a story at least for the next few years,” Thornton said.

The Dallas Cowboys are selling naming rights in-house for their new $650 million stadium in Arlington, set to open in 2009, said team spokesman Brett Daniels.

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