The recent hullabaloo over CitiGroup’s 20-year contract to name the New York Mets new ballpark has reminded me of some ideas regarding stadium naming rights. Corporate naming of venues is a trend already unpopular with sports’ fans but not really all that new. After all, the oldest surviving ballpark in baseball was named to promote the owner’s Fenway Realty Company. So I’ve put together a list of guidelines for stadium naming rights that may help future sports franchise, building management, and potential sponsors.
- First, if the company owns the team and/or stadium, then naming is a no-brainer. It may even pay off in the long run as fans in Chicago would be aghast if Wrigley Field ever changed names while in St. Louis, the Busch name transferred over to a new ballpark even though the chewing gum and beer companies are no longer tied to these franchises.
- If the company doesn’t actually own the team, they should at least be a major employer with a long history in the city or region where the stadium is built. Heinz Field in Pittsburgh and Gillette Stadium in Massachusetts are good examples. Although if your company processes nuclear waste you may want to consider other options of advertisement.
- If a stadium has been known by a certain name for years, fans will still call it by that name regardless of your attempts to rebrand it. San Francisco’s Candlestick Park has been labeled numerous ghastly corporate names over the years but fans still call it Candlestick Park, and it is once again officially so. A better approach is portmanteau renaming like Invesco Field at Mile High in Denver or the classy callback of TD Banknorth Garden in Boston, although those names fail on other grounds. Specifically:
- Companies in the banking, telecommunications, and energy industries are right out. These industries are too unstable for the long-term naming that sporting venues deserve with their frequent mergers, failures, and often ridiculous renaming of these companies. I’d also rule out any company with .com in their name since they should know by now how to distinguish between what’s a proper name for a company and that company’s url.
So that’s my take a sensible approach for stadium naming rights. As for CitiField, despite what some congress members have to say, I do believe that despite the support of taxpayer money, CitiGroup has the right to spend their advertising dollars for as long as they remain a company. If the deal does fall through though, I think Gil Hodges Field has a nice ring to it.