SBJ/Aug. 19-25, 2013/Facilities

Branding change led Moda to naming deal

The sales team at Premier Partnerships spent the first four months of the year contacting more than 300 companies to gauge their interest in buying naming rights for the Rose Garden, but it hadn’t found any serious buyers.

But in May, one of its sales executives, Uzma Rawn, read a news brief in the Portland Business Journal about local insurer ODS Health changing its name to Moda Health. She knew companies going through a rebrand were good targets for a naming-rights deal and began to research Moda immediately.

Trail Blazers President and CEO Chris McGowan and Moda Health President Dr. William Johnson announce Moda’s deal to put its name on the Rose Garden in Portland.
Photo by: RYAN PROUTY / PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
“I saw on their website that Moda derives from the Latin word ‘modus,’ which means ‘the way,’” Rawn said. “In their annual report, they talked about how they were going to be a trail blazer. They were going to lead the way. Literally, the stars seemed to align. It seemed like the perfect fit.”

Rawn called the company and ran the opportunity past its president, Dr. William Johnson, who saw an opportunity to connect with the community at a time when he was trying to raise the company’s brand awareness. Last week, nearly three months later, Johnson and Moda completed a 10-year, $40 million naming-rights deal with the Portland Trail Blazers that will see the team rename the Rose Garden as Moda Center.

“Without our rebranding, we probably would not have done this,” Johnson said last week. “The rebranding is where the synergy is. The goal is really to enhance our brand recognition, and along with that we’ll definitely increase our market share.”

Moda, which provides insurance in Oregon, Washington and Alaska, is the No. 2 individual insurer in the Pacific Northwest. It reported revenue of $1.6 billion and profit of $10.4 million in fiscal 2011.

The deal gives the company naming rights at a venue that hosts 200-plus events a year. TV, radio and digital advertising inventory is included in the sponsorship and naming-rights package, and the company also becomes a sponsor of the Seattle Seahawks and Seattle Sounders, which along with the Trail Blazers form the core of Paul Allen’s Vulcan Sports & Entertainment.

Moda is the Trail Blazers’ first naming-rights partner, and Allen was insistent that the team find a way to preserve the Rose Garden in the new logo for Moda Center. As a result, the Trail Blazers hired the local advertising agency Ziba Design to develop a logo that features a rose. That image is expected to be released in late September.

“We’re always going to be conscious of the Rose Garden,” Trail Blazers President Chris McGowan said. “It’s part of our history and heritage.”

The deal is Moda’s second in sports. It also has a jersey sponsorship with Seattle’s women’s soccer team, Seattle Reign FC.

The Trail Blazers hired Premier Partnerships in January to lead the naming-rights sales effort. In addition to Rawn, President Randy Bernstein and marketing director Erin Prober worked on the deal.

Steve Scott, Trail Blazers vice president of corporate partnerships, and McGowan represented the team in negotiations, while Johnson and CMO Steve Wynne, who previously worked at Adidas, represented Moda.

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