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Volume 22 No. 34
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USC picks Fox to sell stadium naming rights

Fox Sports has signed a multiyear deal with the University of Southern California to sell naming rights for the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, home to the Trojans’ football team.

The six-year agreement with USC’s auxiliary services department, which oversees management of the coliseum, coincides with a separate deal Fox signed with the school’s athletic department in 2013 to sell sponsorships for the stadium and the Los Angeles Sports Arena.

Experts say naming rights could garner between $3 million and $7 million a year.
Photo by: KIRBY LEE
Both deals expire in 2021, said Joe Furin, the coliseum’s general manager.

Under the newer deal, Fox has formed a new two-man division called Coliseum Sports Properties to handle the marketing of naming rights and other stadium partnerships. Matt Wells, director of sales for USC Sports Properties, the Fox group working with athletics, is managing daily operations from his office at Heritage Hall on campus. Last month, Fox Sports hired Delaney Gallagher as director of corporate relations, where he is responsible for selling partnerships for the school and the coliseum.

Dan Shell, general manager and vice president of USC Sports Properties for Fox, also is making sales calls and meeting with potential naming-rights partners.

To this point, Coliseum Sports Properties has had some early talks with a handful of companies about naming rights, including banking and automotive firms, plus technology, health care and solar businesses, but no deals have been signed.

The possibility of an NFL team calling the coliseum home for up to four years while building a stadium in the area could play into naming rights, although Fox Sports officials are avoiding that discussion until a deal to move a team is reached, Shell said.

Shell would not say how much money Fox is asking for with regard to naming rights for the 92-year-old venue, but he said any resulting deal could be for the field, similar to what the University of California did with Kabam Field at Memorial Stadium.

For naming rights to the stadium proper, some experts say a deal could fetch anywhere from $3 million to $7 million a year depending on several factors. They include a major renovation that’s planned to start in 2018.

As part of the naming-rights package, Coliseum Sports Properties is pitching valuable brand exposure on the stadium’s marquee on Interstate 110, a stretch of highway where 300,000 vehicles pass by every day.

The marquee, first built for the 1984 Summer Olympics, has been largely untouched since that time. It’s set to undergo a $1.2 million renovation in August to include new LED lights and a fresh paint job.

Randy Bernstein, president and CEO of Premier Partnerships, worked near the marquee during his days with the Los Angeles Clippers at the Sports Arena, and he feels the sign is one piece of inventory creating enormous value for stadium sponsors.

The success of the USC football program and the project to build a $200 million MLS stadium on the Sports Arena site are other factors that could push the value of coliseum naming rights to $7 million annually, Bernstein said.

Others, such as Jeff Knapple, president and CEO of Van Wagner Sports & Entertainment, a company that got its start selling billboard space, think $3 million to $4 million a year is a more realistic number for the coliseum.

This is not the first time the coliseum has gone through this exercise. About eight years ago, Wasserman Media Group had separate naming-rights deals in place for Nissan and Audi, starting at $2 million a year, but both offers were turned down by the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission, the stadium’s landlord at the time, sources said. USC took over stadium operations starting with the 2013 college football season.