SBJ/20100315/This Week's News

Chelsea hires CAA to sell naming rights

Chelsea Football Club has retained CAA to represent it in the naming-rights sale of Stamford Bridge, putting the agency at the forefront of the first effort to sell naming rights at an existing Premiership stadium.

In order to preserve the equity and history of the stadium, Stamford Bridge will remain the name of the stadium following the naming-rights sale. CAA and Chelsea are seeking a deal that would result in the stadium becoming known as, for example, Widget Company at Stamford Bridge or simply Widget Company Stamford Bridge.

The plan is for “Stamford Bridge” to remain in the
stadium’s name.

Chelsea and CAA declined to comment on the effort or the price they think a naming-rights deal would command.

Other London sports venues have commanded $10 million or more for exclusive naming rights. Mobile phone carrier O2 pays $11 million annually for naming rights to the former Millennium Dome in London, and Emirates Airline pays $10 million annually for naming rights at Arsenal’s ground in North London.

Only four Premier League clubs currently have naming-rights partners: Arsenal, Bolton, Hull City and Wigan Athletic. Everton currently is looking for $8.8 million annually for a 15-year naming-rights deal for its new stadium in North England.

EPL Naming-Rights Deals
Stadium Sponsor EPL club Terms
DW Stadium DW Sports Fitness Wigan Athletic Not available*
Emirates Stadium Emirates Airline Arsenal 15-year, $180 million deal signed in 2004**
KC Stadium Kingston Hull City Renewed in 2007 for 10-year term
Reebok Stadium Reebok Bolton Wanderers Renewed in 2007 to run through 2016
* Wigan Athletic team owner Dave Whelan also owns the naming-rights partner.
** Emirates’ deal also includes an eight-year shirt sponsorship, through the 2013-14 season.
Sources: SportsBusiness Journal archives, Deloitte Football Money League 2009

Chelsea’s decision to hire CAA is not surprising. The agency has worked with Chelsea on its North American business since 2008, and it recently hired Chelsea’s former CEO Peter Kenyon to lead its European sports practice.

CAA also has experience in selling naming rights for venues that are seeking to preserve their existing names as Chelsea hopes to do. The agency worked with the New York Yankees on a naming-rights deal that would have seen Yankee Stadium presented by Bank of America, and it is working with Madison Square Garden on a similar naming-rights sale for its storied Manhattan venue.

The sales effort will be spearheaded by Kenyon and the New York sales team led by CAA Sports co-head Mike Levine and marketing executive Paul Danforth. Levine and Danforth worked on the Yankees’ naming rights, as well.

Chelsea first went public about its plans to sell naming rights for its West London stadium in November. CEO Ron Gourlay said that the sale would help the club derive additional revenue from the stadium, which holds approximately 18,000 fewer fans than Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium.

The club didn’t begin approaching companies until early this year. In late February, The Daily Mail reported that Chelsea approached Brazilian oil company Petrobras about the naming-rights opportunity. The paper reported that the proposal would have renamed the stadium Petrobras Stamford Bridge, but the South American company rejected the offer.

Chelsea is the sixth-richest club in the world with $309 million in revenue in 2008-09, according to the annual Deloitte Football Money League. It was second in the English Premier League standings last week, two points behind Manchester United.

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