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Volume 20 No. 42


The Sacramento Kings have hit the naming-rights market with a minimum asking price of $120 million to sponsor their planned $448 million downtown arena.

According to a team source, the Kings are in talks with companies for a 20-year deal ranging between $6 million and $8 million annually.

The Kings plan to open a new arena in 2016.
Photo by: AECOM
The team hired Front Row Marketing Services to conduct a valuation study for naming rights for the proposed new arena, which would open in late 2016.

To date, the Kings have no plans to hire an agency to help sell a deal, though that strategy could change, a team source said.

Kings officials declined to comment on the naming-rights talks, which one source said includes “solid discussions” from companies in the health care, technology, and financial services sectors.

The most recent naming-rights deal in the NBA came this summer, when Moda Health agreed to a 10-year, $40 million deal to rename the Portland Trail Blazers’ Rose Garden as the Moda Center.

Though the Kings’ proposed arena will not open for three years, team executives are aggressively shopping a package to brand the building. Terms of the arena deal call for the city to pay $258 million toward the cost of the $448 million facility and the team to pay the remainder.

In addition, the Kings on Nov. 22 filed with the city a plan calling for a 1.5 million-square-foot mixed-use development to be built around the downtown arena site.

“There are a lot of variables, but all things being equal, the price seems to be on the high side,” said Randy Bernstein, chief executive officer of Premier Partnerships, which brokered the Moda Center naming-rights deal. “Sacramento is a reinvigorated market. The big question is how much business is going along with the [naming-rights] purchase compared to a pure branding marketing platform. It’s an aggressive price.”

In addition to naming rights for the new arena, the Kings also plan to sell between eight and 12 founding partnerships in the new facility.

The Toronto Raptors and rapper Drake, the team’s goodwill ambassador, are crafting a marketing campaign called “We Are North” as the team begins a branding overhaul.

During a recent industry conference, Tim Leiweke, president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, introduced a short video using Drake’s music and voice to convey a message to fans and players alike to embrace the city’s image as a cold-weather market.

The video kicks off with a display of wintry images followed by shots of spectacular Raptors plays flashing across the screen. Drake’s deep voice can be heard, saying, “Some say we’re on the outside looking in, but from our perspective, we’re on the outside looking … within … because that’s where the effort resides, toughness is formed, the aggression is tapped; on the inside. Doesn’t matter where you are on the map. Only what’s in you will put you on the map.”

The video — which Leiweke said still must be approved for music licensing purposes before it can be released publicly — is among the first steps to rebrand the Raptors from top to bottom as the club moves to wipe away years of futility both on and off the court.

Raptors officials declined to speak in detail about the campaign, but Dave Haggith, a spokesman for MLSE, which also owns the NHL Maple Leafs and MLS Toronto FC, said no final decisions on the rebranding effort have been made.

“The video that Tim referenced is an intriguing one and would be a great launching point for the rebranding of the Raptors,” Haggith said. “Drake will have a strong voice in the rebranding process.”

Bottom line: The video sends a clear message that the Raptors won’t use the Toronto weather as an excuse for not attracting some of the NBA’s best players, according to Leiweke.

“The reason I love this is when I came to Toronto, right before I fired 16 people, they were telling me why no one will come to Canada,” said Leiweke, who joined MLSE this summer. “‘No player will stay here. It’s cold. We have snow.’ So I went out and talked to some NBA players. As it turns out, the favorite city for most of them to visit is Toronto. Great nightlife, they love the hotels, the retail and brands are phenomenal.”

It took an entertainer to figure out what veteran sports executives no longer employed by MLSE couldn’t, Leiweke said.

“Drake singlehandedly came along and said, ‘We’re going to grow a set of you-know-whats and we are going to celebrate [that] we’re unique, we’re different, we’re the only ones, and we are the north side,’” he said. “It’s one of the smartest things I’ve ever seen from a guy we’re not even paying.”