SBJ/May 18-24, 2015/Marketing and Sponsorship

Verizon will drop its title connection to Washington arena

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While its naming-rights deal in Washington, D.C., won’t expire until 2018, Verizon is not renewing as the title sponsor of the building that it and MCI have held rights to at the home of the Washington Wizards, Capitals, Mystics and the Georgetown men’s basketball team since the building opened in 1997 with a Barry Manilow concert.

Playing it close to the vest, Monumental Sports & Entertainment Chief Revenue Officer Jim Van Stone said in an email only that “we are in the process of beginning to explore” finding a new naming-rights partner for the arena, which is located in the city’s Chinatown section.

Verizon, and MCI before it, have held naming rights since 1997.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
However, several industry sources, including an agency that passed on the assignment because of a conflict, said that Monumental Sports is in the final stages of a review to select a sales agency for a new deal. Among the finalists are Chris Foy’s Impression Sports & Entertainment, Denver; and, intriguingly enough, a pair of ad hoc agencies created specifically for this assignment: one that sees Team Services Principal E.J. Narcise teaming with Brian Corcoran’s Shamrock Sports & Entertainment, and another that has naming-rights veteran Rob Yowell and his Gemini Sports Group joining forces with Scout Sports and Entertainment.

Naturally, a naming-rights deal in the nation’s capital would be attractive to any businesses seeking visibility and influence within the district where laws and policy are made.

With that as a backdrop, we’re told the search will be global. However, there will also be local competition. The Washington Nationals’ 7-year-old home — Nationals Park — has never had a corporate moniker, but we’re told it carries a hefty price of around $10 million a year. The D.C. United MLS team also hopes to build a new stadium to open in 2017, which presumably will come with its own naming-rights proposition.

While the current arena naming-rights deal at what some have called “the phone booth” in deference to MCI and Verizon officially ends in 2018, we’re told that a nonconflicting new sponsor could be brought in the fold quickly with a large “on boarding” package that would culminate in an eventual naming-rights takeover.

Sources tell us Monumental Sports is hoping to get around $7 million per year and a deal of at least 10 to 15 years. Several naming-rights brokers, who would not go on the record because they are selling competing rights, told us $5 million per year seems more appropriate, depending upon how much media is layered into the deal.

It could not be determined what Verizon is currently paying, as its deal started in the late 1990s with the MCI deal.
 
Octagon won a shootout of the non-3-point variety for the business of Taco Bell.
Photo by: NBAE / GETTY IMAGES
> MAS CREATIVITY: Octagon has emerged victorious in a lengthy review to become the sports and experiential agency of record for Taco Bell. Agency sources said that finalists in the shootout, which started with more than three dozen marketing shops, including fellow Interpublic Group agency Jack Morton, along with Team Epic. Sources said the final group did not include incumbent agency Intersport.

In a review administered by search consultant Select Resources International, agencies were asked to develop ideas around the NBA, college football and its 10-year-old “Feed the Beat” program, which recognizes and supports developing bands and musicians.

Renowned for its marketing to millennials and as an advertiser in the last three Super Bowls, Taco Bell has been an NBA sponsor since 2009. It also has a College Football Playoff sponsorship through which it created a student section; around 10 college sponsorships and naming rights to the 12,380-seat arena that is the home court for the Boise State Broncos.

> JERSEY WATCH: NHL Chief Operating Officer John Collins is predicting revenue in an excess of $130 million for the World Cup of Hockey tournament, which is returning in September 2016 for the first time since 2004. Some portion of that will come from consumer products revenue, and the league is looking at proposals from the likes of incumbent supplier Adidas (for its Reebok brand), Nike and Under Armour, with the hopes of selecting a jersey licensee within the next month or two. Two items are of particular interest here: The league is considering adding an advertising patch to the World Cup jerseys, which would generate even more revenue for the tourney set for Sept. 17-Oct. 1, 2016.

Secondly, the league is using the World Cup jersey program as a trial run for the next NHL jersey deal. That deal expires after the 2016-17 season, so we’ll pay close attention to which brand lands the World Cup apparel deal and to whether there’s an ad patch on that jersey, since it will likely be repeated in the NHL deal. The eight-team World Cup tournament will be played at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre between two all-star squads, and teams representing the U.S., Canada, Russia, Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic.

Terry Lefton can be reached at tlefton@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

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