Are sponsored stadiums worth it?

April 22, 2008

Juventus are to become the first Italian club to have their stadium sponsored.

The concept is so alien to Italians that Juve had to hold a presentation in Milan this week to explain what it was all about, and to look for sponsors. I went along hoping to speak to the directors about potential transfers but most of my Italian colleagues asked question after question about this strange new marketing trend.

Having attended the first game at the Reebok Stadium in Bolton 11 years ago, I’ve become rather used to the idea and don’t think it differs much to sponsored shirts.

Certainly in the case of Bolton Wanderers, the revenue from the sponsorship deal has gone a long way to helping them stay in the Premier League. Several of Germany’s excellent stadiums built ahead of the 2006 World Cup are sponsored, like Munich’s Allianz Arena, and fans there are generally happy.

But should we be worried about where all this is heading? Does every time we mention the name sound like an advert?

The Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen sounds better than Arena AufSchalke, but do we really want existing stadiums changing their names? Hamburg’s stadium changed sponsors after just six years.

Many basketball and cycling teams in Europe even have sponsors in their name. I don’t think fans will want major soccer clubs to go that far, but it has already been tried with TNS in Wales and others will definitely follow.

Mark Meadows, Reuters Sports Correspondent in Milan


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I think they can be a good idea.
For teams with age old stadiums with a lot of history (Old trafford, Nou Camp etc then i think its a bad idea as i believe these also help boost tourism in the local area. But for teams getting new stadiums (Arsenal, Bolton etc) i think its a good way of boosting a lot of extra money.

There are things like the Manchester Evening news arena (In ….manchester) nobody complains about naming a building so why not a football stadium.

Posted by tony | Report as abusive

I think sponsored stadiums work best, when you move location and built a completely new stadium. Munich’s Allianz Arena is a good example. It’s a new place with which fans don’t connect any memories. There’s no nostalgic value. It isn’t seen as an integral part of the club’s identity or the club’s brand so to say. Frankfurt’s Commerzbank Arena meanwhile is a completely new stadium as well, though they teared down the old Waldstadion and replaced it step by step with the new stadium. So a lot of fans still see the new stadium as the Waldstadion and refuse to accept the new name. A lot of fans are generally still referring to their stadiums using the original names.

Werder Bremen meanwhile have opted for the opposite direction. Instead of selling the stadium name (which was hotly discussed since the cost for their renovation/expansion plans spiraled out of control) they held on to it. In fact, they re-launched the Weserstadion and even designed a distinctive logo for it. So they clearly plan to built on the value of the original name which has seen many famous European nights and Bundesliga games. And who knows, maybe this will earn them more money in the long term, than the €3-4m a year a sponsor would pay. Especially since Bremen are one of the few clubs who don’t have a sponsored stadium.

Posted by Jan | Report as abusive

Good, bad or ugly this is part of the landscape in modern professional sports. Clubs can make millions of dollars a year by attaching corporate sponsors to the names of their stadia and their owners and directors will look to maximize the revenur on the global brands that their teams have become. Here in the US, we are used to it and there are only a few venues that do not have corporate naming rights.

Posted by Marcus O’Mard | Report as abusive

If it translates into allowing the club to generate more revenue, wouldn’t that help lesser leagues compete better with the likes of the EPL?

Posted by clement | Report as abusive

interesting that the comments so far are all positive. I think it is such a surprise to italians because most clubs dont own their own grounds anyway so sponsorship has never come into the equation. Rome’s Olimpico is owned by the Olympic Committee and San Siro is owned by Milan council….mind you English lower division side Tranmere once had their local council sponsor their shirts!

Posted by Mark | Report as abusive

You mention fans not wanting to see major clubs having sponsorship in their name, but doesn’t the P in PSV Eindhoven refer to Philips (who also sponsor their shirts) and similarly for Bayer Leverkusen?

Posted by Gonzalo | Report as abusive

that’s a very good point Gonzalo. I guess the only difference is that PSV and Bayer have always been like that. Originally they were the clubs of the companies and wouldnt exist otherwise. But a very good observation, esp as the stadiums are the philips stadion and the bay arena. The reebok wasn’t the first…

Posted by Mark | Report as abusive

Personally, I think it’s terrible.

You’ll find in many sports that sponsors have replaced traditional names. Even F1 is affected.

Adding your brand to a name like “Vodafone McLaren Mercedes” is bad enough.

But when you replace a traditional name as in football stadia, I think it’s a disaster.

Just look at Arsenal’s stadium. Impressive it may seem on opening but with the passage of time, the fans will rue it and miss the sound of “Highbury”.

Chris Turner

Posted by Elite Soccer Coach | Report as abusive

No, it just cheapens the team and turns them into an extension of a brand. It’s bad enough they have global corporations slapped across their shirts (which also seems ridiculous!). It just seems a bit of a sell out – like the Emirates itself – never an empty seat!

Posted by Paolo | Report as abusive

Gonzalo is right and might I add that Red Bull New York and Red Bull Salzburg are both clubs that have a sponsored name. I think it’s tacky but I am sure it won’t be the last time that happens.

Regarding named stadiums, it helps the club but I know in the US at least, only people on TV used the sponsored name. When the Cubs used to play the Giants (baseball) I would never refer to the stadium as anything but ‘Candlestick Park’ in fact I can’t even remember what they changed the sponsored name to.
In that same line, they are talking of selling the name to Wrigley Field (Cubs-baseball) and I KNOW no one will call it anything but Wrigley Field because the other team in town renamed their park but they still call it Comisky Park. :)

Posted by papa bear | Report as abusive

[…] Interesting discussion over whether sponsored stadiums are worth it over here. […]

Posted by Round up of football news « Chris Kidd – applied youth ministry | Report as abusive

although Arsenal fans still try to hang on to the long gone “Ashburton Grove” it’s still “The Emirates” to everyone else. Souless hole that it is. So although theyr;e not foreign owned (yet) they have still sold out like Man U, Chelsea & Liverpool have not.

Posted by KG | Report as abusive

what would be the reason for naming your ground after a sponsor? oh right, money. worth it or not, its just another aspect of the game being packaged up and sold to the highest bidder in my opinion. give me highfield road, highbury or filbert street over ‘the ricoh arena,’ ‘the walkers stadium’ and ‘the emirates’ anyday.

Posted by justfoot | Report as abusive