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Why There Are Now Six Golden Rules Of Naming Rights Sponsorship For Brands

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 on November 9th, 2011

Tags: Default, Naming Rights, Sponsorship

9 responses to “Why There Are Now Six Golden Rules Of Naming Rights Sponsorship For Brands”

  1. Jason Wolfe said at November 9th, 2011 1:49 pm

    I agree with the premise of your golden rules, but I think it needs to be taken further.

    You must also weave your brand into the fabric of the venue. Make it feel as if you are part of the venue, not just a name on it. Media impressions are valuable for brand building, but there will always be the charge to drive business.

    Lastly, I agree on your tent poles above, I think there needs to be more, only because the failure of return on these deals is bad for the industry- especially for those working on the agency side.

  2. Harry said at November 10th, 2011 11:08 am

    So, you came out with five rules, duly forgot about the most successful events venue in the world, re-wrote your “golden rules” and now admit that they still don’t really mean anything as “things can change”.

    Typical.

    I’ve always been against the idea of trying to create rigid rules and boundaries for anything relating to any business. Especially something so fluid as sponsorship/marketing/branding/consumer behaviour.

    Tut tut.

  3. Jessica Enoch said at November 10th, 2011 11:28 am

    Today’s news about St James’ Park suggests Mike Ashley has listened to your rule number 1.

    On the other hand they are still breaking rule number 2, and the fans seem angry!

  4. Mike Potter said at November 10th, 2011 12:20 pm

    One of the factors with The o2 was the fantastic opening and the success it has achieved since opening. Had it not enjoyed this then you may have different views!

  5. Callum said at November 10th, 2011 7:40 pm

    The Oval is an interesting one – breaking several of your rules, but most damagingly, number 5 – they change sponsor so often that you forget what its current name actually is ( it’s the Kia Oval, as I found out when visiting this summer). This must lead to reduced impact for the brands and a lessening of the venue’s reputation – if you keep having to find new sponsors, what does that say about you? Another cricket venue which does seem to have eased into a sponsored name rather better is Headingley Carnegie, though this could be due to it being a slightly different type of sponsor.

  6. Tim said at November 11th, 2011 8:19 am

    Harry – while I respect your right to take an opposing point of view, to accuse me of forgetting about The O2 in 2004, two years before The Dome became The O2, is perhaps a bit harsh.

  7. AndyK said at November 11th, 2011 2:05 pm

    Are we (esp. the media) being naive not to think that Mike Ashley deliberately re-named St James’ Park the “Sports Direct.com@St James’Park”!! Maybe I’m giving him and his team too much credit but one suspects Ashley knows perfectly well that “Sports Direct.com@St James’ Park” is contraversial and doesn’t work but what this temporary naming has done is to attract huge national (& probably international) media attention to the ACTUAL SALE of the Newcastle’s stadium naming rights.

    Rule #1 – in addition to it being relatively short isn’t it as much about the whether the name rolls of the tongue, is catchy and has relevance – fundamental aspects to any type of branding exercise?

    It would be interesting to do a poll asking fans, “Q. Would you accept a stadium sponsor if it meant the club could buy a Messi, Ronaldo or 3 or 5 new players a season?” what %age of fans would say yes/change their stance on this matter

    thanks

  8. AndyK said at November 11th, 2011 2:15 pm

    Are we (esp. the media) being naive not to think that Mike Ashley deliberately re-named St James’ Park the “Sports Direct.com@St James’Park” to grab attention!! Maybe I’m giving him and his team too much credit but one suspects Ashley knows perfectly well that “Sports Direct.com@St James’ Park” is contraversial and doesn’t work but what this temporary naming has done is to attract huge national (& probably international) media attention to the ACTUAL SALE of the Newcastle’s stadium naming rights and moreover, to his own company/brand, SportsDirect.

    Rule #1 – in addition to it being relatively short isn’t it as much about the whether the name rolls of the tongue, is catchy and has relevance – fundamental aspects to any type of branding exercise?

    It would be interesting to do a poll asking fans, “Q. Would you accept a stadium sponsor if it meant the club could buy a Messi, Ronaldo or 3 or 5 new players a season?” what %age of fans would say yes/change their stance on this matter – quite a lot would say yes, I suspect.

    thanks

  9. adam said at November 25th, 2011 11:33 pm

    i don’t think you should worry about the O2 being ‘the exception that proves the rule.’ IMO the O2 can’t be considered in the same debate (to a large degree anyway) because the Millenium Dome, especially since it was so new, but even if it wasn’t, cannot be compared to a football stadium with years and years of emotional, familial, connection. nobody would feel the same about the Millenium Dome as they do about their club stadium. the Millenium Dome is closer to s ashopping mall than to a football stadium. it wasnt even a stadium! it was just a place.

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