When Chelsea announced they were looking for a naming rights sponsor for Stamford Bridge earlier this week, I tweeted that I would advise brands to avoid naming rights sponsorships of an existing stadium like Stamford Bridge, because they don’t work with the media [who won’t use the sponsor’s name] or the fans [who don’t like a sponsor re-branding ‘their’ stadium].
This principle is the second of my Five Golden Rules Of Naming Rights For Brands, which visitors to this parish will recall I last dusted off back in July.
Cue quite a response from the blogosphere, pointing out that O2 successfully re-named an existing arena, the Millennium Dome.
Does this render my second rule invalid? Well, no actually. To me The O2 and another recent deal are actually the exceptions that prove the rule.
But I admit that it does mean a re-think of the rules. And I’ve come to the conclusion that a new one is needed.
Based on the success (in branding terms) of The O2 and the Aviva Stadium in Dublin (re-built on the site of the decrepit and ultimately unloved Lansdowne Road) it’s clear that it is possible to successfully brand an existing stadium under certain conditions: those conditions being when the stadium involved is unloved and/or decrepit, and as a result is going to be re-built and/or re-launched.
So, for the very first time, I give you a modified second rule and a new third rule, to create a new list of six.
1. The stadium must have only one short name. If there are two names, one of which is the sponsor’s, guess which one the media, and the fans, will edit out? ‘The Reebok Stadium’ works: so does ‘The Emirates’. Conversely, horrors like ‘Sports Direct.com@St James’ Park’ always quite deservedly bomb.
2. Avoid re-naming an existing stadium with heritage. If you do, you run the risk of being edited out (The Oval) or the object of acrimony (SportsDirect.com@St James’ Park). It’s much easier to start with the blank canvas of a new stadium. But don’t forget to follow rule number one.
3. The exception to this is when a stadium or arena is unloved and/or decrepit and as a result is going to be re-built and/or re-launched – for example the way the Millennium Dome became The O2 and Lansdowne Road became the Aviva Stadium. But again, don’t forget to follow rule number one.
4. You must pay enough. There was an outcry in Leicester against Walker’s – previously a relatively popular local employer – when it was announced that the company had paid only £150,000 per year for 10 years to sponsor the new Leicester City Stadium. This was unfavourably compared with the millions the company had spent using Gary Lineker in its TV advertising.
5. You must be in it for the long term, for two reasons: to demonstrate your commitment (see also rule number four) and also because if you do it for long enough, the return on investment in terms of media impressions alone will be enormous – as long as you’ve followed rule number one.
6. Once you’ve followed rules 1-5, the hard work really starts – gaining the respect and admiration of the fans and the media for what you’re doing.
So, there they are. The new Six Golden Rules Of Naming Rights For Brands. Let me know what you think.
And before you ask, yes I am wondering whether the Etihad deal with Manchester City to re-name Eastlands might create a seventh, where it is also possible to re-name a stadium with, let us say, no heritage. But let’s wait and see how that one plays out first.
By Tim Crow on November 9th, 2011