Stadium sponsorship is a door to Euro presence

Companies are realising the potential of long-term sponsorship deals with stadiums as a new way to stand out from the crowd.

For many brands, standing out from the crowd is becoming increasingly difficult. Traditional advertising and sponsorships cannot explain their product well enough for consumers to truly understand what they do. Add the numerous competitors trying to do the same, and the message often gets lost.

A highly effective way to cut through this clutter is to use a naming rights programme, whereby brands sign up to sponsor stadiums in long-term deals. Contracts are often agreed for a minimum of ten to 15 years, enabling the partner to update the image and technological contributions.

In the US, the sector is witnessing huge growth, as more companies wake up to its potential.

A partnership not only has the potential to generate huge brand impressions – particularly for companies which are either new to the market or technologically based – but can also allow the brand to show its merits in a truly interactive, and often, global environment.

Internet company PSINet, which recently signed up to sponsor the Euro 2000 football championships, is reported to have paid more than $100m (&£64m) to name the home of the Baltimore Ravens.

There is more to the agreement than PSINet creating and managing the team’s Web business. It has also brought an interactive experience to the fans by, among other things, opening up Internet cafés around the concourses.

Mobile phone giant Ericsson has put its name on the face of the Carolina Panthers Stadium. The deal dramatically increased name recognition for Ericsson across the US, and created a ready-made entertainment spot for top executives and potential clients.

And, most recently, Intel Corporation announced that it had integrated the latest technology into VIP seats at Madison Square Gardens, allowing guests numerous options while watching an event, for example instant replays.

While newly planned stadiums and arenas in the US are experiencing up to 15 unsolicited calls for the naming rights being made, the sector is still in its infancy in Europe.

The most well-known UK partnerships are the Reebok Stadium (home to Bolton Wanderers FC) and the BT Cellnet Riverside Stadium (home to Middlesbrough FC).

But there is growing interest in the sector, in part through the Arena 2000 project – an 80-acre site in Coventry that is being heralded as the new national arena – which will become the biggest naming rights programme to date in Europe.

With the benefit of lessons learned in the US, companies are looking to Europe for similar opportunities and the Midlands venue should lead the way in showing what can be done.

Stephen Pearson is the former commercial director of the Premier League and commercial director for Arena 2000


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