Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 20 No. 42
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.

At $30M a year, will AT&T mobilize for Inglewood stadium?

Sources tell us that the Los Angeles Rams are in the market with an asking price in excess of $30 million per year on naming rights for the forthcoming $2.6 billion stadium in Inglewood that will house both the Rams and the team formerly known as the San Diego Chargers. One source said that $30 million was the least the team would take, which would still make it a record. A 20-year minimum deal is being sought. Moreover, we’re told that AT&T has been presented with the deal and it’s “their move.”

The question of why AT&T would need another NFL naming-rights deal is a good one. Certainly it speaks to both the margins and competitiveness within the cellular service industry. We’re also told that L.A. is a priority market for the telecommunications giant. AT&T already has a top-level sponsorship at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

“Maybe they’ll call it DirecTV Stadium,” quipped Rob Yowell, founder of Gemini Sports Group, Phoenix, referring to the 2015 acquisition that made AT&T the nation’s largest pay-TV provider.

Tim McGhee, CSE senior vice president and the former executive director of sponsorships at AT&T, noted that much of AT&T’s entertainment group, now based in Atlanta, is relocating to either Dallas or El Segundo, Calif., which is in Los Angeles County. “Like so many big tech brands, they [AT&T] want to be a content company above all else,” McGhee said.

Whether that’s enough to convince AT&T to pay the freight it will take to title sponsor a fourth major sports facility (it also has naming rights to the San Antonio Spurs’ home arena and the San Francisco Giants’ and Dallas Cowboys’ homes) is an intriguing question.

The Inglewood stadium is part of a 300-acre mixed-used complex that will house both the Rams and Chargers. What’s temporarily being called Los Angeles Stadium at Hollywood Park is scheduled to open in time for the 2019 NFL season and serve as host for Super Bowl LV in 2021.

> PAPI’S NEW SHOES: David Ortiz has landed another post-retirement endorsement, this time signing a two-year, seven-figure deal with Skechers. Still photos were shot last week for print and digital ads at Big Papi’s home in suburban Boston, with a TV shoot scheduled for this summer, as part of the casual footwear brand’s back-to-school sales push.

Ortiz joins an impressive roster of Skechers endorsers, which includes Ringo Starr, Howie Long, Mariano Rivera, Joe Montana and Rob Lowe. Phil Paccione, Skechers executive vice president, negotiated the deal. Alex Radetsky’s Radegen Sports Management, New York City, is the longtime marketing agency for Ortiz.

Previous footwear deals for Big Papi include two Boston-area footwear companies; a hookup with New Balance, largely for cleats; and an endorsement with Reebok that lasted roughly a decade.

> OILY BIRDS: In more than 25 years chronicling sports and sponsorships, we’ve covered nearly every category, but never have we written about an olive oil deal … until now.

The Baltimore Orioles have signed a sponsorship with Pompeian Inc., a 111-year-old local company, which claims to have produced America’s first national brand of imported extra virgin olive oil. It’s the first sports marketing effort by Pompeian, which received promotional rights, rotational signage and various in-stadium features, including a “Now We’re Cookin’” animated scoreboard feature, as part of the deal.

Marco Gentile, the Orioles’ vice president of corporate partnerships, noted that, like so many nontraditional sponsorships, the deal started with a cold call, made by one of his staffers.

Lowe’s displays support Scotts’ MLB sponsorship.

> GREEN MONSTER: Scotts, MLB’s official lawn care company since 2010, is back with baseball-themed programs syncing with the spring lawn care season. The company is underwriting six baseball field refurbishments across the country, including one in Miami as a precursor to the July All-Star Game activities there.

More Scotts brands are involved this year, so Miracle-Gro plant food and fertilizer products and the Ortho pest-control brand have programs using Scotts MLB rights. Ortho is using Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez in online video and digital ads to underscore its message of defense. Miracle-Gro has been partnering with educational programs and digital programs tied to gardens at various MLB parks, including those in Boston, Denver and the Class AAA Memphis Redbirds.

Scotts supports its MLB league rights with team deals in Atlanta, Boston, Cincinnati, Colorado and with the Los Angeles Angels. Again, the largest retailer supporting is Lowe’s, which will have MLB displays and promos dangling All-Star Game tickets as top prizes in more than 1,000 stores. Wasserman is Scotts’ sports agency.

> COMINGS & GOINGS: After 28 years and hundreds of made-for-TV shows featuring top gymnasts and skaters, Steve Disson has decided to hang up his skates. He insists retirement is not in his future, “it was just time to do something altogether different.” Disson’s first made-for-TV skating/gymnastics special, “The Sudafed Skating & Gymnastics Spectacular” in 1989, was not altogether different from his last: January’s “The Colgate Skating & Gymnastics Spectacular.” Each included Nadia Comaneci and Bart Conner, first as participants and more recently as hosts. “I had an option to continue procuring shows for ABC, but I just thought this would be a nice way to end it,” said Disson, the first marketer to work for ProServ, an original sports marketing firm and antecedent of today’s Octagon. Outside of skating and gymnastics, Disson produced events around basketball, beach volleyball and bicycling for networks that included ABC, NBC, CBS, ESPN, USA Networks, Bravo and the Hallmark Channel. As for what’s next? “Something in sports and entertainment,” he said. “I just wanted a new challenge.” … Recent Forty Under 40 honoree Justin Toman has been promoted to senior director of sports marketing at PepsiCo, where he has worked in various marketing slots since earning his MBA from Michigan in 2006.

Terry Lefton can be reached at