In Sport Sponsorship

Among the most interesting sports marketing opportunities, there is growing interest in all the activities related to sports facilities and complexes, i.e. stadiums, circuits, sports halls and all types of indoor and outdoor facilities that host races, fights, matches, competitions and performances. Despite the fact that these forms of sponsorship and sports marketing are in some ways less “flashy” and thus less well-known by the public, they are actually exceptionally effective both in terms of B2B and B2C. Naming rights, i.e. the right of a company give its name to a stadium or an arena, and that’s not all: there are a vast number of opportunities linked to buildings and facilities that stage the exploits of our heroes.

Naming Rights

When we talk about sports marketing and buildings, the first thing that comes to mind is naming rights, and for good reason. The world’s most prestigious stadiums, arenas and sports halls can benefit from long-term partnerships with companies from the most wide-reaching sectors, who buy up the full rights to rename the facility after themselves.

Naming rights, as with many other sports marketing practices, began in the United States in the 1980s and 90s. The owners of the American NFL, NBL, MLB and NHL (and now also the MLS) teams – who are often also the owners of the complexes in which these teams play – began to sell to big city businesses the right to rename the facility, creating indelible associations in the eyes and ears of the fans. The Gillette Stadium of the New England Patriots, the FTX  Miami Heat arena and the Barclays Center in Brooklyn are just a few famous examples. At the start of the millennium, the practice spread to Europe, where new, private complexes began to replace the old municipal stadiums and sports halls. To name just one of biggest companies in Europe, the Allianz Arena and the Allianz Stadium, owned respectively by Bayern Munchen and Juventus.

Thus, it is naming rights that attract, with their immediate visibility (naming a complex after a company), the greatest attention because such an effective method is hard to miss even for the most distracted visitor.

But how does it work? Naming rights in brief

Companies espouse their name with that of the sports complex and – over the years – the trademark and the building become synonymous. The values of the sport connected to the complex and the emotions linked to the events are interwoven and impressed upon the trademark/name of the building, which thus becomes the reference in a geographical area and beyond. As often occurs in the effective use of sports sponsorship, the familiarity and good feeling generated are then translated into purchasing preference and user and customer loyalty.

Through naming rights, a company is associated with a sports facility and gives it its name, concluding a contract that lasts from a minimum of 8-10 years upwards. Over time, this transaction causes the company to be fully identified with a place in the city or country where events are held that generate great excitement and emotion.

Access to these cathedrals of sport is an extraordinary opportunity for any brand. As well as the possibility of seeing an exponential increase in number of mentions of its name (by the fans but also in the press and social media) which greatly improves brand positioning, naming rights also provide other side benefits stemming from the sponsorship contract.

From hospitality for the biggest customers to ticket-related promotions, engagement for building profiled databases, new product sampling and the possibility of using the space as a giant endorsement of the company’s construction capacity. In effect, the company acquires a huge showroom of public interaction, which can be used for a wide range of communication and marketing activities.

Naming rights are the tip of the iceberg: what you don’t see is just as, if not more, important

The truth is that every sports facility is interesting: from the most famous stadiums to the local sports halls hosting five-a-side football matches among mates. All these spaces have, in fact, the common denominator of the love for the sport played there. And, as we have seen repeatedly here, passion is a very effective business driver for companies of all types and sectors. Association with a building that hosts exciting sports events, of all levels and disciplines, means acquiring a marketing platform and – above all – a subject of communication. It is a sign of closeness to the fans and players, certainly, but also a clear system of values and demonstration of ties with a community.

Of course, this applies to all sports and all categories: from municipal ice rinks to big tennis complexes, swimming pools and race tracks – such as the Red Bull Ring – home to MotoGP and Formula 1. And, as mentioned, it goes well beyond the simple exploitation of Naming Rights.

If, indeed, there is only one naming partner of a sports stadium, there is nothing to say that other companies or suppliers can’t get involved, from the initial construction phase to management.

In the construction phase, for example, awareness can be raised among suppliers of building materials. From cement to paint, windows and doors to tiles, electrics to chemicals: all the sector manufacturers are potential partners of the team or organization that is building the complex. A similar situation also applies to IT; wiring, antennas, Wi-Fi systems and everything else required for the operation of the stadium and to enable the fans to enjoy a full and satisfying experience.

All these companies, in exchange for perhaps particularly advantageous conditions of material supply, obtain visibility and the possibility of communication by becoming a team sponsor, using an alternative form of payment for all or part of the barter.

Then there is the management phase and we need to consider all the contracts of administration and maintenance. A sports facility has large numbers of visitors every year, with extraordinary opportunities for catering companies, but also firms that perform the cleaning and maintenance: these great opportunities to generate new cash flows or big savings for the sports team are not always approached in a structured manner from the offset.

The need for a strategic approach

As is clear from the previous paragraph, the first thing to do when considering actions such as these is mapping all the potentially engageable sectors, in order to approach the companies in an orderly fashion with no risk of overlap.

It is important in this phase to point out that the interest of the company and of whoever commissions the sports facility are aligned. In fact, if the client wants the best building possible at the best price possible, whoever provides the materials and services wants the final product to be excellent, insofar as it will be used to showcase their expertise. Upon completion, the producer will be able to play host to acquired or potential customers and will want to be able to show off the quality of the work.

The reason for the existence of these transactions lies precisely in the convergence of the needs of the team and supplier. It is a win-win capable of achieving exceptional results and satisfaction, among the most successful ever to be seen.

How do you organize a facilities-related Sports Marketing transaction?

Here is a list of things to do:

  1. Make a list of materials/products you need
  2. Check the project quantities required
  3. Make a list of the potentially contactable companies, checking whether any of them have already acted as sports sponsors
  4. Prepare a presentation highlighting the opportunity to become a partner through partial or total good exchange transactions
  5. Organize trade meetings among partners to promote B2B activity and extend the duration of the partnership well beyond the completion of the building
  6. Emphasize among potential partners the possibility of holding such meetings

If you are interested to know more or willing to explore the opportunities of sports marketing, do not hesitate to get in touch at

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Riccardo Tafà
Riccardo Tafà
Managing Director for RTR Sports, Riccardo graduated in law at the University of Bologna. He began his career in London in PR, then started working in two and four-wheelers. A brief move to Monaco followed before returning to Italy. There he founded RTR, first a consulting firm and then a sports marketing company which, eventually, he moved back to London.
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