Stadium naming rights are increasingly recognized as a highly coveted premium asset in the sponsorship space. The cost of new agreements for tier-one properties in major markets has skyrocketed, driven by their scarcity.
These agreements uniquely offer the potential to deliver an large number of impressions, both locally and nationwide through broadcast media.
In our Perspectives survey of 2000 US adults, we assessed awareness levels regarding the name changes of four stadiums:
- MetLife Stadium, New Jersey, since 2011
- Crypto.com Arena, Los Angeles, since 2021 (formerly known as the Staples Center)
- TD Garden, Boston, extended to 2023 through June 2045 (formerly known as the FleetCenter)
- Guaranteed Rate Field, Chicago, since 2016 (initially known as U.S. Cellular Field)
Respondent awareness of these name changes was found to be relatively low, with prompted awareness at 29% for MetLife, 27% for Crypto.com Arena, 23% for TD Garden, and only 17% for Guaranteed Rate Field.
Several factors contribute to generating sufficient nationwide awareness for a naming right to resonate, including the team’s performance and media coverage.
The distinctiveness of the name and the brand’s strength also play critical roles. For instance, ‘Guaranteed Rate Field’ does not particularly roll off the tongue. The less memorable the name, the less likely it is to be used in everyday conversations.
Longevity is another crucial factor, as sponsorship is inherently a long-term medium. There’s ample time to build brand equity over a 25-year agreement, but success is not guaranteed.
For example, Crypto.com Arena has the second-highest awareness despite being one of the most recent agreements. The sector and the brand have received significant media coverage in recent years, making the venue’s name more salient in consumers’ minds.
For local market audiences, which are typically crucial for brands entering naming rights agreements, the awareness of the stadium names was higher, though not always with a significant margin. West coast respondents had an aided awareness level of 35.2% for Crypto.com Arena, a 6.2% difference from the national score.
In the Northeast, MetLife Stadium’s awareness was higher at 43%, a 14-point difference from the national level. For TD Garden, the gap was 13%.
Impact on Naming Rights Partners
While consumers may not readily admit that advertising impacts their brand perception, direct measurement showed a positive influence across all four venues, ranging from 22% (MetLife) to 18% (Guaranteed Rate).
Most respondents felt neutral towards the naming rights partner or stated that the agreement had no impact on their brand perception.
However, the negative impact was noteworthy. One of my mentors once said, “Impressions are not everything: you can create negative value.” While negative sentiment towards MetLife and TD Garden was low, at 5% and 4% respectively, the Crypto.com Arena sponsorship generated 14% negative opinion. This figure is only slightly above the percentage of respondents who felt more positive towards the brand as a result of the deal. While this may be due to the general negative coverage of the crypto industry, these national data points suggest that the sponsorship itself was not a strong driver of positive opinion.
National Visibility, Local Impact
Although TV coverage of sponsorship assets, particularly scarce ones like jersey patches or stadium naming rights, generates significant value, its impact outside the local market is limited. The greatest return on stadium naming rights is seen with the local audience and the team’s followers.
Conclusion & Limitations
Given that the impact of stadium naming rights is predominantly local, brands should focus their valuation efforts on the impressions generated within the market and discount the value derived from national broadcasts. This approach may lead to more realistic valuations. Additionally, brands should not expect a naming rights agreement for a professional team’s stadium to resolve awareness or share of voice issues nationally.
While these data points do not account for fandom, naming rights agreements certainly have a more significant impact on the fans of the sports teams playing in them. However, fans and journalists have been known to resist using new names on occasions, which certainly limits the positive outcomes associated with such deals, regardless of the number of eyeballs they attract.