Sponsorship: What’s in a Name?

Many communities raise money by selling the naming rights to their sports facilities. The most obvious opportunity is to put a sponsor’s brand on a building’s exterior, however there are many opportunities for in-venue sponsorships.

When The Mosaic Company recently renewed a 20-year venue naming rights deal with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, it signed up for much more than simply having its logo attached to the side of the football club’s new stadium in Regina.

“We love having our name on it but it goes beyond that,” says Sarah Fedorchuk, director of public affairs for the Regina-based potash production company. “It’s also about having a partnership with the Riders. We have players [go] out to the community for events with our partners, it allows our employees to access tickets to the games, it leverages Roughriders and employee engagement, and more.”

When it comes to high-profile venue naming rights, packages have come a long way. Potential corporate partners are looking for much more than the typical gold, silver and bronze-level packages of old.

“Companies are looking for more value in connecting on a richer level with the experience, as opposed to just having a sign in a facility,” explains Gary Dewar, marketing and sales supervisor with the City of Edmonton’s community services department. “They want to generate more return on investment and have a richer partnership. And on the highest end of that partnership are naming rights.”

Mosaic Place Moose Jaw Saskatchewan

Integrated program
So, what is the difference between putting a corporate name on a building versus plastering a logo on a team change room, ice rink, or even the venue scoreboard (besides a whole lot of money)?

“Advertising is a static product, a push method of marketing,” says Brent Barootes, president of the Calgary-based Partnership Group. “You’re putting a message out there and that’s the end of the story. Sponsorship is experiential marketing.”

It’s the difference between simply putting a company name on a rink board, and naming a dressing room and handing out samples of one’s product to everyone who goes into that room. “It’s an integrated program where you can interact with the audience rather than just advertising,” says Barootes. 

And while naming a building can be seen as the ultimate carrot to dangle in a sponsorship deal, there are many opportunities inside the door – everything from that aforementioned dressing room, to putting a store in the facility, to sponsoring staff uniforms. 

Marketers are only limited by their imaginations, and the price tag can roll back and forth depending on what’s available. “We’ve worked with clients with naming rights for $5,000-$10,000 per year, right up to $5 million a year,” says Barootes. “And if you can’t afford to hire a company to negotiate a naming right, talk to other facilities about the same size in other communities and ask them what they got.”

And don’t forget to talk about the length of time the naming rights deal would
last. “When researching our deals, it was suggested that they be longer-term – 10 years or more,” says the City of Edmonton’s Dewar, adding that interior rights and sponsorship deals can be shorter, for example, between five and 10 years. “It’s less of an issue selling an element of a facility because if we changed a name inside, it won’t have a massive impact,”
on visitors, Dewar says.

The halo effect
That said, when naming the exterior of a building, marketers need to heed the “halo” effect. “If you’re taking over an old building that was previously named, the halo effect is how long it will take people to accept

the new name,” says Barootes. And if that halo hangs over a stadium, it might take more marketing initiatives to get people to accept the new name.

When done well, a successful partnership can do what it’s accomplished for Mosaic in Saskatchewan. “We do a yearly social reputation study measuring brand and reputation in the province,” says Fedorchuk. “And since we started five years ago, we definitely go up every year. And Mosaic Stadium is the highest recognized of our properties.” 

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