Thursday
Mar172011

The Name Game: In Stadium, Jersey-Front Deals, MLS Has NFL, MLB, NBA Beat

By Barry Janoff, Executive Editor

March 17, 2011: When it comes to stadium naming rights and jersey front sponsorships, there may be no pro league that does it better than Major League Soccer.

The Portland Timbers this week unveiled a multi-year stadium naming rights deal with Jeld-Wen, an Oregon-based manufacturing company, adding to MLS's growing list of teams with stadium naming rights. Financial details were not disclosed, but the value was put at about $2 million annually by industry analysts.

Following major off-season renovations, Jeld-Wen Field, which formerly was PGE Park, is scheduled to officially open for MLS play on April 14, when the Timbers host to the Chicago Fire.

It was the second stadium naming rights deal for MLS this month. Earlier, Sporting Kansas City signed a six-year alliance with LiveStrong, the division of the Lance Armstrong Foundation dedicated to raising awareness about and money for the fight against cancer. The team is not taking money for naming rights to its new stadium, scheduled to open in June, but industry analysts put the value at $2-$3 million annually. Team owners also plan to donate a minimum of $7.5 million to LiveStrong over the course of the pact and work with LiveStrong on its efforts to fight cancer.

Team owners said they traded naming rights dollars for branding exposure, as they expect to to use Armstrong's name and connections to attract "entertainers who otherwise wouldn't have played our venue," Sporting Kansas City CEO Robb Heineman said during the press conference to launch the alliance.

Regarding the deal in Portland, "Naming rights to Jeld-Wen Field and marketing partnerships with both the Timbers and Major League Soccer provide support for an historic Oregon icon, grassroots involvement throughout the state, and access to a loyal, international fan base," Steve Wynne, CMO for Jeld-Wen, said during a press event. "Soccer is an international sport and we're an international company."

Among the other MLS teams with stadium naming rights deals are the Chicago Fire/Toyota Park, New England Revolution/Gillette Stadium, New York Red Bulls/Red Bull Arena, Philadelphia Union/PPL Park (PPL Corp.), Toronto FC/BMO Field (Bank of Montreal), Chivas USA and the Los Angeles Galaxy/Home Depot Center,  Colorado Rapids/Dick's Sporting Good Park, FC Dallas/Pizza Hut Park, the Seattle Sounders/Qwest Field and Real Salt Lake/Rio Tinto (a multi-national mining group).

New England Revolution and D.C. United are working to get their own soccer-centric stadiums, according to MLS commissioner Don Garber. The Houston Dynamo and San Jose Earthquakes already have broken ground for their new venues.

A majority of MLS teams also have jersey front sponsors: Chivas USA/Corona, D.C. United/Volkswagen, Houston Dynamo/Greenstar Recycling, Los Angeles Galaxy/Herbalife, Philadelphia Union/Bimbo (Bakeries), Portland Timbers/Alaska Airlines, Real Salt Lake/XanGo, San Jose Earthquakes/Amway, Seattle Sounders/Xbox, Toronto FC/BMO, New York Red Bulls/Red Bull and the Vancouver Whitecaps/Bell Canada.

Colorado Rapids owners said a jersey-front deal was forthcoming.

At the low end, MLS jersey-front deals can be had for $1 million annually. Herbalife pays about $4-$5 million, which would be the top side, due to the Los Angeles market and the presence of David Beckham and Landon Donovan. Average is about $2-$3 million annually, according to industry analyst.

Candace Parker of the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks sports a jersey with Farmers Insurance logo.The WNBA has taken notice with four teams with jersey front sponsors and the promise of more to come: Los Angeles Sparks/Farmers Insurance, Seattle Storm/Bing (Microsoft), Phoenix Mercury/Lifelock and the New York Liberty/Foxwoods (Casino). In addition, BBVA Compass, the official bank of both the WNBA and NBA, had its name on the jersey fronts of the Seattle Storm and Atlanta Dream during the 2010 WNBA finals.

The NFL and NBA have only gone so far as to sell sponsorship deals on practice togs, but not game uniforms except for the official uniform supplier (currently Reebok and adidas, respectively). Even the relatively small suppliers logo is valuable territory: Nike signed a deal with the NFL to replace Reebok beginning in 2012 via a five-year pact estimated at $1.1 billion, far surpassing the 10-year, $250 million deal Reebok signed with the NFL in 2001.

The fledgling United Football League has sold sponsorships in another valuable piece of territory: the center-front of player helmets.

Nascar is in another world regarding sponsorship deals, with cars and driver togs routinely covered with company logos that sell for a range of prices depending on placement.

Exorbitant price tags have made it challenging for the NFL's two newest stadiums to secure naming rights deals deals: Cowboys Stadium, the home of the Dallas Cowboys and site of Super Bowl XLV last month; and the New Meadowlands, which will host Super Bowl XLVIII, both of which cost more than $1 billion to build. Owners for the New York Giants and Jets, which share the New Meadowlands, have sold cornerstone deals to four major companies, valued at a combined $30 million annually, according to analysts: MetLife, PepsiCo, Anheuser-Busch's Bud Light and Verizon.

The New Meadowlands Stadium does not have a naming rights deal but does have four major cornerstone partners.As additional evidence of the über value of aligning with the NFL, Anschutz Entertainment Group, which owns the MLS Galaxy and The Home Depot Center among a multitude of other sports properties, last month signed a deal with Farmers Insurance for upward of $700 million over 30 years for naming rights to a Los Angeles-area stadium that has not yet been approved to be built.

Jeld-Wen is coming in at a much lower deal with the Portland Timbers but is still getting great value. The venue will annually will play host to Timbers home games, college and high school football games, and a wide variety of sports, entertainment and community-related events.

"Soccer is an international sport and we're an international company," said Wynne. "We have customers or Jeld-Wen operations in every city where MLS competes —  from Toronto to Houston and, of course, now here in Portland. We're extending the reach of the Jeld-Wen brand to homeowners we likely haven't reached before and who care about the comfort and energy efficiency of their homes."

"It would be an understatement to say that many factors enter into a decision as important as our naming rights partnership."

According to said Merritt Paulson, president of the Timbers, "It would be an understatement to say that many factors enter into a decision as important as our naming rights partnership. The fact that Jeld-Wen is an Oregon-based company, has a deep-rooted history in our community and is so committed to giving back makes this marriage an ideal one for the Timbers."

Give Them The Shirt On Your Back: Jersey-Front Sponsorship Deals Are Hot

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