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Volume 21 No. 6
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Break the Link: Seattle stadium naming rights going to market

Naming rights for the Seattle stadium that houses the NFL Seahawks and the MLS Sounders are coming to market.
We’re told that the Seahawks will handle the sales internally and that they already are proceeding with due diligence on the project.

The home of the “12th Man” has been called CenturyLink Field since 2011, when that company acquired Qwest Communications. Qwest had the original naming-rights deal there, dating from 2004. Since extended, the current deal runs through the 2018 NFL season. Pro forma, CenturyLink’s exclusive negotiating window expires in January 2018, but sources tell us that the deal was done in support of the merger and is unlikely to be renewed.

The home of the Seahawks and Sounders has been called CenturyLink Field since 2011.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
To us, the most intriguing thing about this nameplate being available is that it will help set, or reset, the market. This is a stadium built in 2002 seeking a buyer for a retrofitted name, so we’ll get an initial indication of what naming rights for venues from that generation of facilities are worth.

Seattle is one of a slew of recently built sports venues with naming deals expiring imminently. “There will soon be more top-level naming rights for sale at the same time than ever,” said Rob Yowell of Gemini Sports Group in Phoenix. “How that impacts the market is an interesting question.”

According to information compiled by Navigate Research of Chicago, naming-rights deals, pending renewals, will be expiring over the next three years at facilities including the Air Canada Centre, Philips Arena, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Verizon Center, Pepsi Center, Qualcomm Stadium and Safeco Field, also in Seattle. Sports Authority’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection filing has the naming-rights deal at the home of the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos in question.

Add the likelihood of a record deal at the forthcoming Los Angeles stadium, which may house two NFL teams, along with a likely new stadium for either Oakland or San Diego or both, and it adds up to a crowded market for naming rights.

Given the impressive string of sellouts at the Seattle facility (the Seahawks have 113 consecutive, the Sounders 136), we could be looking at the biggest NFL retrofit naming deal ever. However, with the venue looking for its fourth name since opening in 2002 as Seahawks Stadium, we’re curious just how much enthusiasm there will be for a deal locally, even from possible “hometown heroes” like Starbucks, Microsoft, Boeing or Amazon.

> REVIEW WATCH: Nearly a year after completing an NBA sponsorship deal that will have Tissot’s brand on 24-second clocks starting next season, the Swiss watchmaker is nearing the end of its search for an agency to tell it how to best use those pricey rights. We’re told CAA Sports and Octagon are the finalists in an agency review that began a few months back and also originally included “all the usual suspects,” including WME-IMG and Wasserman. It is expected to conclude by September.

Tissot officials have acknowledged that the deal making it the NBA’s official timekeeper was the company’s largest sponsorship ever. So far, Tissot has supported the league deal via TV ads and complementary sponsorships with eight NBA teams and has brought NBA-licensed watches to market.

> PADDING THE ROSTER: NFL sponsor Dannon has added two players to an endorser portfolio headed by Carolina Panthers quarterback and 2016 NFL MVP Cam Newton: New York Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson and Panthers tight end Greg Olsen, along with their mothers. They’ve shot a TV spot in support of Breast Cancer Awareness month and will appear at point-of-sale. Not surprisingly, the ad is scheduled to break Oct. 1.

Team Epic handles for Dannon. Radegen Sports Management handles marketing for Wilkerson. Peter Raskin at The Legacy Agency reps Olsen.

> ARE YOU EXPERIENCED?: Add Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment to the parade of companies launching a corporate hospitality and event venture. The parent company of the Barclays Center and the Brooklyn Nets has launched BSE Experiences in tandem with longtime hospitality company QuintEvents.

The company will package hospitality for events at Barclays and other BSE venues, with Quint operating under a management agreement and profit split.

“Everyone wants to be closer to the content, and historically these sorts of packages have been value adds for top sponsors,” said BSE Chief Executive Officer Brett Yormark. “Now these assets have become too valuable to be throw-ins, so you see everyone looking for ways to fully monetize the unique experiences they can provide.”

The first package being offered is for the Barbra Streisand concerts at Barclays on Aug. 11 and 13. A $9,000 package includes a private event escort to guide you to a Streisand meet and greet, four floor seats, parking inside the arena, dinner at the 40/40 Club and concert merchandise.

BSE’s move with Quint follows the establishment of event management and corporate hospitality businesses by CAA, and On Location Experiences, owned by Bruin Sports Capital and RedBird Capital Partners and headed by former NFL and NHL executive John Collins. “We’re focusing a lot of attention on what has been a fairly sleepy business,” Collins said.

Added QuintEvents partner Brian Learst: “To some extent, the increased interest in event hospitality has been caused by how good the TV experience has become. We give people a way to experience the event that’s much better than watching on a 70-inch screen.”

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