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Volume 21 No. 1
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Agreement caps Knapple’s time at Wasserman

Helping to sell naming rights to the new Meadowlands stadium that houses the New York Jets and Giants was one of the last large deals Jeff Knapple will perform for Wasserman Media Group, where he is a principal.

Jeff Knapple
Knapple sold part of his company Envision to join Wasserman in 2002. The naming-rights pioneer, who played briefly in the NFL, USFL and CFL during the 1980s, is leaving Wasserman sometime soon.

“Casey [Wasserman] and I have had a good friendship and partnership, but it is just time to finish this phase out and move out,” Knapple said last week, referring to Wasserman’s chairman. “I am not sure yet whether it’s best to go in-house for a brand or do something myself, but I have found it is a fun time to be a free agent.”

Questions about Knapple’s future have been floating around the industry ever since former MLB sales chief John Brody joined WMG as global sales head last August.

The first naming-rights deal Knapple worked on was the Target Center in Minneapolis in 1989. That deal was for $250,000 per year, and Knapple negotiated on behalf of Target with current president of AEG Tim Leiweke, then a sponsorship vice president at the Minnesota Timberwolves. Since then, Knapple has been involved in a plethora of naming-right deals, including the Staples Center, Toyota Center, Philips Arena, The Home Depot Center, Citizens Bank Park and Emirates Stadium. As he wraps up this chapter of his career, here are some thoughts from a naming-rights first-mover.

MOST UNIQUE NAMING-RIGHTS DEAL FOR YOU: “This one [MetLife] was definitely the most complex. It ended up taking 4 1/2 years. You had two NFL teams sharing a building, the biggest market in the country, a recession like nothing anyone had been through before and a lockout. I can’t believe anything like all that will happen again.”

BIGGEST MISCONCEPTION ABOUT NAMING RIGHTS: “That they don’t work. I hear people say they can’t remember all the names, but contrast that with the relationship you can build between brands and consumers using naming rights. There is no better way.”

ADVICE TO ANYONE BUYING OR SELLING NAMING RIGHTS: “Teams can’t look at it as just a way to generate signage and advertising revenue. They have to be willing to enter into a real holistic marketing relationship with the naming-rights partner, and then everyone will be OK.”

ONE THAT GOT AWAY: “Not taking away anything from the MetLife deal, which was great, but I wish we could have handled the Allianz deal in whatever way was necessary to keep it intact. Not that I know then — or now — what that was or should have been.”