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Sunday, March 30, 2021

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Baseball’s Washington Nationals are starting this season in brand-spanking-new Nationals Park — and in this age of stadium naming rights, that kind of default facility name is bad news.

If, for no other reason, the depreciative effect:

Had a deal been in place already, the corporate sponsor would be identified with the park from its first day of existence — just as CitiBank will be identified with the New York Mets’ still-to-come Citi Field, just as telecommunications behemoth MCI was linked to Washington’s MCI Center two years before it opened. Some experts believe a relationship that begins on Opening Day — or, in some cases, years in advance — means the fan base will permanently link the corporation with the team.

“With every day that passes once the ballpark is open, the value of that rights deal could very well decrease,” said David Carter, the executive director of the University of Southern California’s Sports Business Institute. “There’s so much upfront media attention and buzz, and that impacts how the name would be received by the public… The opening weekend is a tremendous amount of positive publicity, and that could have a halo effect to a sponsor if one was in place.”

It’s strange to think that a phantom facility is more valuable, marketing-wise, than an already-existing brick-and-mortar structure. But it’s true, and I’ve noted that mindshare has an awful lot to do with it:

The chief reason why the naming-rights prices are super-sizing is that they’re being applied to brand-spanking-new buildings. That’s key. Instead of slapping a new name onto an old building — that comes with an entrenched name and tradition that, sometimes, never gets completely supplanted — the naming-rights holder gets virgin territory. So there’s no chance of Prudential Center being referred to by its “old” name, because there is no old name for the stubborn voices to hang onto.

In a way, things have come full-circle in the stadium naming game: Corporate branding of an events edifice has gone from a crass rarity to an essential element. And as the DC situation illustrates, it’s now even a top-of-list priority.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 03/30/2008 09:57:09 PM
Category: Baseball, SportsBiz
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