Naming Rights, Naming Wrongs : A Performance Research Independent Study

While only one football team has called a certain stadium in Miami home over the past 23 years, the stadium itself has been home to six different names.  Now while having your brand attached to something as grand as a stadium does offer a certain level of attention, how effective is owning these naming rights if  they are going to change often?  Also, shouldn’t you  make sure to benefit the club and its fans in some way?

Check out the Performance Research Independent Study below for a detailed look into the ups and down of stadium naming rights.


Naming Rights, Naming Wrongs

An independent telephone study conducted in the U.K. and U.S. by Performance Research tested consumer awareness and attitudes toward corporate sponsorship of stadiums and arenas. The research revealed that sponsors must consider the needs of the fans, understanding an unwanted name change may do more harm than good.

During research in the U.S., Performance Research found nearly 90% of sports fans in Chicago, Boston, Indianapolis and Minneapolis were able to correctly name (unaided) stadium / arena sponsors, and 20% of the U.S. sports fans questioned reported they personally benefit from corporate-named stadiums / arenas.

So how would fans in the U.K. compare, when the same study was conducted here? Firstly the level of stadium sponsorship is much lower, and this was reflected during spontaneous sponsor recall questioning. Less than one-fourth (23%) of U.K. respondents were able to correctly recall sports stadiums named after a company, brand or product. Bolton’s Reebok stadium was recalled most frequently (54%), followed by Huddersfield’s McAlpine stadium (48%).

Can sponsors benefit from stadium naming? Well, one-fourth (25%) of fans in the U.K. indicated that stadium sponsorship ‘Has, or would increase purchase consideration’ of that brand or product. Moreover, roughly one-half of fans reported a ‘More positive’ opinion of a company sponsoring a sports stadium, and 25% reported a sports stadium named after a sponsoring company holds positive connotations, implying the team must be good.

However, before sponsors rush out and sign naming right sponsorship deals there are some reasons to be cautious. Despite nearly one-half (47%) of U.K. respondents reporting they were ‘Very’ or ‘Moderately’ in favour of a new sports arena named after a corporate sponsor, fewer than one-third of U.K. fans indicated they would be ‘Very’ or ‘Moderately’ in favour of changing the name of an existing stadium. Moreover, one in five U.K. sports fans reported just because a company was a sponsor did not make it right for them to change the name of the stadium, and unlike fans in the U.S. the majority (88%) of fans in the U.K. reported stadium naming would be of no benefit to them, indicating that stadium sponsorship was unlikely to result in lower ticket prices.

According to Mark Knight, Project Manager, Performance Research Europe, a company which undertakes sponsorship naming of a stadium without considering the needs of the club or fans is guilty of ‘brandalism’ of the worse kind and is only going to harm their brand image. “A stadium can be a national icon or community focal point, an un-necessary name change may be seen as little more than a cold-hearted attempt to buy their way into a sport they ultimately don’t understand”.

During February 1999 staff from Performance Research randomly dialed and interviewed, a total of two hundred and sixteen (216) sports fans.  The margin of error for this sample is no more than + 7%.