It’s that time of year, sports fans — the Super Bowl is almost here! If this Zinzin namer loves anything as much as naming, it’s sports. And on any given Sunday, the two align in glorious strategic formation.
The game plan here is to explore the topic of naming rights. Not so much the right to bear names, but the way corporations purchase the right to name a facility, object, location, program, or event, typically for a defined period of time. When it comes to the Super Bowl, to own naming rights is like a brand building blitz. But is it a practice that can last with price tags up to $700 million?
Even if watching (American) football isn’t your thing, you’re likely aware that millions of marketing dollars and even more viewers are part of the Super Bowl every year. In fact, in 2022, CNN Business stated that the Super Bowl is still watched by roughly 100 million viewers. The article continues,
Nothing in the media world comes close to getting companies the exposure that the Super Bowl can. That’s increasingly important as the media landscape grows more fragmented, according to Patrick Crakes, a former Fox Sports executive turned media consultant.
“The fractionalization of attention because of streaming and social media makes the Super Bowl more important than ever,” Crakes told CNN Business. “If you’re in business with the NFL and you’re advertising during the Super Bowl, you’re a real player.”
This year, Super Bowl LVII takes place on February 12th. It will determine the winner of the National Football League (NFL) for the 2022 NFL season. Moreover, the game will be held at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
About stadium naming rights
State Farm Stadium
In September 2018, State Farm insurance company announced the stadium’s new name: State Farm Stadium. The company signed an 18-year commitment on its naming rights deal.
According to a 2018 article in the Phoenix Business Journal, “financial details weren’t released, but recent deals of this nature spanning nearly 20 years for other NFL stadiums have been worth between $250 million and $400 million.”
Currently, State Farm is the largest property and casualty insurance provider, and the largest auto insurance provider, in the United States. State Farm is ranked 42nd in the 2022 Fortune 500, which lists American companies by revenue. (Source: Wikipedia)
State Farm bought the naming rights from The University of Phoenix, which had acquired naming rights in September 2006 under an initial 20-year agreement. The stadium was then named University of Phoenix Stadium, formerly Cardinals Stadium upon its opening in August 2006.
The Phoenix Business Journal also noted, “Sports Business Daily reported that, according to sources, the University of Phoenix was paying between $8 million and $9 million a year for its naming rights deal.”
A quick history of naming rights
In the article, Naming rights: a two-way synergy, Carolina Schueler of Managining IP discusses why naming rights could be a profitable, long-lasting partnership. She touches on a brief history of naming rights in the U.S.:
The naming rights strategy was first introduced in the US in 1926, when the American chewing gum company Wrigley named the Chicago Cubs Stadium as the Wrigley Field – the stadium still carries the name up until now. In 1972, the Rich Products Corporation signed the first naming right formal agreement: a 25-year deal for the Buffalo Bills’ new stadium, which then became the Rich Stadium. This was just the beginning of a new advertising practice.
Globally, naming rights contracts have substantially increased in popularity since the 1980s. As many stadiums or arenas now host multi-sport competitions and often serve as a stage for concerts, venue-naming rights can present an excellent opportunity to expose brand names to a diverse customer base.
In terms of cost effectiveness, a brand’s addressable market can be accessed without the regular and high running costs that advertising boards on single concerts, matches or multimillion-dollar prime time slots require.
Naming rights have extended beyond stadiums and into other facets of pro-sports sponsorship as well.
Super Bowl LVII Halftime Show naming rights
In September 2022, the NFL announced that Apple Music secured naming rights to the Super Bowl Halftime Show. They replaced Pepsi’s 10-year run. Ben Fisher of the Sports Business Journal reported,
The deal runs for five years and will cost Apple about $50M annually, a source said, on the high end of what the NFL had been seeking when Pepsi left. The halftime show is typically the peak-viewership time for the largest annual TV event. It drew 120 million viewers in February  for the lineup of Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige and Kendrick Lamar…
As it became clear that Pepsi was not likely to renew in 2021, the NFL began to describe a vision of working with a modern tech or content company to dramatically increase the content and media opportunities around the 12-minute concert.
So, every year, Apple Music pays $50 million to sponsor a 12-minute concert. Is that a fumble or a celebratory spike in the end zone? Consider the fact that companies spend $7 million for a 30-second Super Bowl commercial.
Did you know?
Rihanna is the headliner of this year’s Super Bowl Halftime Show, which has helped ticket sales soar. According to Wikipedia, it will be Rihanna’s first live performance in over five years. It will also be the end of her boycott of the event, in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick — exercising rights of another kind, to be sure.
The question of the function of rights is the question of what rights do for those who hold them.
That’s a bigger thought posed in Stanford’s Encyclopedia of Philosophy on Rights (which is a pretty cool academic read if you have the time and inclination). Perhaps the function of naming rights is also the question of who writes the rights.
Great names for the win
Even though Zinzin’s pay dirt comes from naming products and services, we’re inclined to ice the kicker and hit pause to understand naming rights better. If a brand is going to pay hundreds of millions to slap its name on a sports arena, I think it should be a great name.
In our naming business, a great name has staying power. It shouldn’t be a Hail Mary; it should be born of a battle-tested naming process that combines the rhythm of art and rigor of science.
I was going to end there, but I’m calling an audible: What do you think of the practice of naming sports stadiums after highest-bidder corporate brands? Feel free to add your comments in the section below, along with Super Bowl predictions too!
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