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Volume 21 No. 26
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Initial odd deal provided interesting sponsor twists

With as peculiar an original naming-rights deal as Monumental Sports inherited, naturally there were some odd twists along the way.

Verizon bought what was left of a bankrupt MCI, which held the arena’s original rights, for $6.7 billion in 2005. Shortly thereafter, Monumental senior executives contacted Verizon to let the company know that its purchase included MCI’s arena naming rights.

Verizon’s response at the time to owning the rights: “We do?”

Nonetheless, the company put its moniker on the arena, starting in 2006. Since the original MCI deal only covered business communications, additional fees were required for other categories, as well as various promotional and marketing campaigns, sources said. Therefore, Verizon’s sponsor support at the arena often was inconsistent.

So through the years a number of competing telecom brands cut sponsorship deals with teams that called the arena home. That resulted in some unusual conflicts, like the WNBA Mystics being sponsored by Sprint’s Boost Mobile brand and playing in jerseys with a Boost Mobile logo on them — on a court bearing Verizon’s logo. The Wizards, sponsored by T-Mobile’s budget MetroPCS brand, also played on a Verizon-logoed home court.

— Terry Lefton