Ford has signed a three-year sponsorship deal with Essex County Cricket Club that will see the team’s Chelmsford ground renamed the Ford County Ground for the duration of the sponsorship.
The agreement is the latest in a series of high-profile deals that have included stadium naming rights, but has upset traditionalists at Essex who think the name of their home should remain sacrosanct.
Cricket was one of the first sports to embrace the corporate sponsorship of stadiums in the UK, when the Oval in South London became the Foster’s Oval in the late Eighties. Last year, Emirates signed a £100m sponsorship deal with Arsenal Football Club that included naming rights to the club’s new stadium.
The concept of selling stadium naming rights comes from the US, where Reliant Energy and American football team the Houston Texans have a $10m- (£5.3m-) a-year deal. But even clubs at the lower end of football in this country have used naming rights as a revenue stream. Conference side Scarborough, for instance, has a long-term deal with frozen-food brand McCain.
Ford’s six-figure sponsorship with Essex will include signs around the ground, perimeter boards at boundary level, branding on all roll-on covers and product displays on match days.
Brentwood-based Ford employs 10,000 people in Essex. Clydesdale Bank, owned by the National Bank of Australia, will be Essex’s kit sponsor for the 2005 season.