SBJ/20090727/This Week's News

Fielding offers: Vikings look to sell naming rights to the ground they play on

The Minnesota Vikings are selling naming rights to their field, becoming the latest NFL team to try to move a major piece of sponsorship inventory during the ongoing recession.

While the Dallas Cowboys and New York’s Jets and Giants remain unsuccessful in their efforts to sell naming rights to their new stadiums, the Vikings for the first time are looking to sell field rights at their stadium (so, Company X Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome) as well as three gate sponsorships at the venue.

“Like all major investments with a sports team, this is a challenge,” said Steve LaCroix, the team’s chief marketing officer. “[But] we feel the field naming rights is really unique.”

The team expects a low-seven-figure annual sum for the field rights and less for the gate sponsorships. The team is handling the sales efforts internally.

Prospective brand locations (top)
include the center of the roof.

In marketing materials, the team describes the field-rights opportunity as a naming-rights deal and shows renderings that would have the company name on top of the Metrodome along with other exterior placements.

“These opportunities include the unique rights for a local, regional or national company to gain ‘naming rights’ to the facility while still honoring Hubert H. Humphrey’s legacy in association with the Metrodome,” the materials state.

There is at least one other NFL facility where a sponsorship is linked in the venue’s name to the field: The Denver Broncos’ home is known as Invesco Field at Mile High. Invesco, however, latched onto that stadium when it first opened, making Denver’s deal different from the Vikings’ situation, said E.J. Narcise, a principal in naming-rights consultancy Team Services, a subsidiary of Learfield Sports.

“There are a handful of [NFL] clubs trying desperately to level the playing field from a revenue standpoint, so it is no surprise that the Vikings would come up with a program like this,” Narcise said.

The problem for a company looking at the Metrodome, Narcise added, beyond the distressed economy, is the uncertainty of the Vikings’ stadium situation. The team wants a new venue; its lease in the Metrodome expires at the end of 2011. Narcise said he would advise any company to demand a right of first negotiation for naming rights at any new stadium.

The Metrodome opened in 1982 as home to the Vikings, MLB Twins and University of Minnesota football. The Gophers this fall are moving into a new on-campus facility, TCF Bank Stadium, while the Twins next year depart for their new ballpark, Target Field. With the Vikings thus on the verge of being the facility’s lone tenant, the city of Minneapolis in February gave the team the right to sell these new sponsorship areas.

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