Sponsorship Today naming rights
ISBN: 978-1-905685-28-8
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Naming rights - Global sponsorship analysis

Executive Summary


Although there are has been no previous major global analysis on the naming rights market, it is clear that it is an area of sponsorship that has grown rapidly in the past 20 years.

That growth is in the number of rights and total value, now estimated at $750 million per year, the diversity of regions and sports that have naming rights deals and the acceptance among fans. This report analysed 548 deals in 32 countries and the number of new deals and markets shows no sign of abating.

Manchester City’s $30 million per year deal with Etihad has broken the record for the value of a stadium naming and, although some have claimed that there is an element of this deal being designed to channel money from Abu Dhabi into the club (which is owned by the emirate’s Sheikh Mansour) to get round UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules, it is clear that major rights holders with global appeal, do surpass a market value of $20 million for naming rights.


Despite the growth in acceptance of naming rights, there are still major cultural differences in the structure of the deals.

In the USA, where the concept really took off, it is the primary sponsorship revenue source for many of the rights holders. In baseball and American Football, for example, there is no jersey sponsorship and as such the stadium is the prime branding property.

US fans, wary of jersey sponsorship, readily appear to accept stadium naming and are much more accepting of traditional stadia names changing to take a corporate moniker than counterparts in other countries.

In Europe, the general rule has been that new build stadia can successfully attract naming rights, but historical venues are much more resistant to change because of fan and media reactions. This is particularly the case in soccer, where the stadium is seen as sacrosanct by many fans.

In other European sports, such as rugby and cricket, name changes are more readily accepted by fans although prestigious national stadia, such as Wimbledon and Roland Garros (tennis), Twickenham (Rugby) and Lords (cricket) are more resistant.

In Latin countries, including Brazil, Italy and Spain, naming rights deals are still very rare. This is down to several factors including cultural opposition, a lack of new stadia coming on stream and a less mature sponsorship industry.


Although the largest deals have tended to be for top American Football, baseball and European soccer stadia, the real boom in naming rights is for indoor arena. This is partly the result of a lot more indoor arenas being built.

Traditionally all major cities had significant ‘outdoor’ stadia for soccer, American Football, baseball, rugby etc. However, indoor arenas were much less common. The rise of basketball, ice hockey and cultural events such as pop concerts, meant that there is a demand for such facilities, although they are often funded by local government as few individual sports rights holders have the resources to build and operate such arenas.

Because indoor arenas can be used on a daily basis, they frequently have a high level of cumulative attendance and profile, which makes them attractive to sponsors, hence relatively high rights values in comparison to their size.


In keeping with most sectors in sponsorship, the financial services sector is the biggest investor with 38% of deals by value and 28% by number. Other big investors are airlines, telecommunications and car manufacturers.


The United States is by far the biggest market for naming rights with 276 deals listed, which are valued at more than $400 million annually. The UK comes second in terms of total deal value, followed by Germany, which actually has more deals, but at lower average values.


There is a definite correlation between length of naming rights deal and value and a noticeable variation in duration according to territory. On average the more valuable deals are five years longer and more common in the USA, Canada, the UK and Germany. In other countries, such as Japan, it is not unusual for major deals to be as short as three years.


Although many of the major global rights holders have naming rights deals, there is still potential for growth. In emerging countries such as India, Russia, China and Brazil, there are relatively few deals at present but in most of these countries there has now been at least one significant deal with signs that more will follow.

In South America and southern Europe, there have been few major new stadium projects in recent years. Over the next decade, as new stadia are built, especially in those countries such as Brazil and Russia, set to host major global events, there is an opportunity for naming rights for the new stadia. This was apparent in Germany following the 2006 FIFA World Cup, with virtually all of the new or refurbished stadia taking naming rights.

Similarly, these markets tend to be lagging in terms of the construction of indoor arenas and again the opportunity to introduce naming rights should coincide with the development and maturity of the national sponsorship industries.

As a marketing tool, there remain concerns that naming rights offer limited opportunities to brands that go beyond awareness and image transfer. Buildings are static objects and activation of the rights can be difficult in terms of both geographical marketing and connecting with fans.

A more sophisticated and creative approach to activating naming rights through both social media and experiential marketing, as successfully achieved with Munich’s Allianz Arena or the O2 Arena in London, will be needed to justify the levels of rights fee investment in the future.

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European Sponsorship Association
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