Naming Rights, Naming Wrongs
As every inch of scoreboards, dasher-boards, floorboards, sidelines, concourses, ticket-backs, parking lots, and even restrooms of major sports arenas are painted with sponsor logos and brand messages, it stands to reason that buying the building beats being buried under the avalanche of advertising inside.
If you haven’t noticed the corporate takeover of stadiums and arenas, then you can’t call yourself a true sports fan. From airlines to breweries, department stores to telecommunications companies, it’s hard to find a city without a sponsor signing its name to the biggest sports center. And when you count the number of people flowing through the turnstiles, the potential coverage of the advertising seems enormous.
But do sports fans really care? According to a recent telephone study of 750 sports fans in 14 cities nationwide by Performance Research, there may be some real advertising muscle holding up the bricks and mortar. A few game stats: Fans are highly aware of the corporate names flying over their stadiums, with nearly 90% of those in Chicago, Boston, Indianapolis, and Minneapolis correctly naming (unaided) the arena sponsors in their city. Perhaps more importantly, over one-third (35%) of those polled reported that this kind of advertising has a “Positive effect” on their opinion of the sponsoring company, and 61% agreed the sports facility named after a corporation in their hometown adds favorably to the community. Even more telling, nearly one-fifth overall believed that they personally benefit from corporate-named arenas, with “Lower taxes”, “More sports opportunities”, and “Lower ticket prices” often cited as reasons.
While sports fans may cheer sponsors paying for new arenas, there is some serious booing when it comes to re-naming old ones. Overall, 37% oppose the idea of changing the titles of existing stadiums and arenas to accommodate corporate names. This figure reached the highest level (60%) in San Francisco (where the venerable Candlestick Park was re-christened by 3-Com). In San Francisco, just 8% of the fans felt that a sponsor adds to their sports experience, yet over 25% of those polled in cities with brand new arenas felt so.
So what’s the final score? According to Jed Pearsall, president of Performance Research, “Sponsors must scrutinize each market to make sure consumers feel there is a true need for corporate support of the arenas in their community. Without this perceived need, sponsors may find themselves with tickets to the eyes, but not the hearts of their customers.”
Consumer awareness and attitudes toward corporate sponsorship of stadiums and arenas were tested in eight ?test? cities with current sponsorship and three ?control? cities without. The test cities included St. Louis, Chicago, Phoenix, Salt Lake, Denver, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Boston, Sacramento, Indianapolis and Newark. The control cities were Dallas, Detroit, and Miami. All respondents were screened to have attended at least one major sports event in their home town in the last year. Testing was conducted during the last quarter of 1996. The margin of error is no more than + 5%.
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