Behind the Scenes in Naming a New Stadium

It’s become part of the modern corporate marketing playbook:  Emblazoning your name on a professional team’s stadium or arena.

stadium-488x-1But some deals just don’t seem to fit the mold.  Or as a cheeky headline in Bloomberg Businessweek asked:

  • Why Would a Bank You’ve Never Heard of … Buy Stadium Naming Rights from a Soccer Team You’ve Never Heard of … for $100 Million?

The bank in question is Banc of California, with fewer than 40 branches and $10 billion in assets, making it the smallest bank ever to attach its name to a professional sports venue. It’s about one-tenth the size of the bank that holds naming rights for Houston’s pro soccer stadium.

The stadium (shown in an artist’s rendering) would become home in 2018 to the Los Angeles Football Club, a new franchise of Major League Soccer.  This would be one of the richest deals ever in stadium naming rights.

So why would a comparatively tiny bank, with seemingly little to gain, spend so much money just to name a stadium?

Well, when you take a look behind the scenes, it becomes apparent that naming the stadium is a lot more than a marketing tactic to boost awareness of the Banc of California name.

Consider the “special relationships.”

The brother of the bank’s CEO is a minority investor in the soccer team.  One of the bank’s board members is also president of Magic Johnson Enterprises; the former Lakers star is another part owner of the soccer team.

Both the bank’s CEO and the soccer club president are members of the organizing committee trying to bring the summer Olympic Games to Los Angeles in 2024.  Banc of California serves as the organizing committee’s bank, and – surprise! – the new 22,000-seat stadium would be one of the venues used for the Olympics.

Just a “naming deal?”  Not exactly.

Consider the real scope of the deal.

The stadium development will have substantial restaurant, retail and office space, and Banc of California will have a branch on site.

Banc of California will also serve as the soccer team’s bank.  It has already participated in a $180 million syndicated loan with other banks to fund stadium construction.  And it plans to lend to the project’s minority subcontractors.

In other words, this “naming deal” turns out to be just one step in an ambitious and aggressive business initiative.

Just a “naming deal?”  Not exactly.

Posted in Naming Strategies