What’s the ROI of Sponsoring the Name of a Sports Stadium?

This should be named the
United Airlines Center
There's no easy answer to that question. Perhaps it doesn't even matter.

While there are a few published methods for calculating the brand value of buying the naming rights to a stadium (example), I'd argue that the decision to buy these rights is based more on emotions than any sort of rational return on investment calculation. It's much more likely that a CEO or CMO simply thinks their brand closely aligns with their local sports franchise and they want to see their name atop its stadium rather than a situation in which CEO or CMO estimates how much sales will increase as a result of their sponsorship.

Some research suggests much of the value from a stadium sponsorship actually comes in the included tickets a brand receives and can use to entertain its most important clients. So maybe those CEOs and CMOs really just want to go to events at the nearby stadium and they figure if they can also bring along some clients then in makes financial sense. And there's nothing wrong with that.

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The point of all of this is isn't to knock the business of stadium sponsorships — I happen to think there are a lot of stadium sponsorships that make a lot of sense. My point is to say that some decisions are based more on emotions than rational thoughts — even big, costly decisions. At the end of the day, executives and employees at Lucas Oil probably think it's really cool to see their name atop the Indianapolis Colts' stadium. They probably enjoy their luxury box for events in the stadium, too. And to them, that's worth a few million dollars a year. If you were trying to sell Lucas Oil on a "better" way to invest their money, there's probably not a rational argument you could make to change their mind. So why try?

There's never a lack of ideas.

Footnote
I have always thought the most poorly named stadium is the United Center in Chicago. The stadium should be called the United Airlines Center, as I think many people who have never been to the stadium do not realize that the airline pays to sponsor the stadium and that it's not, in fact, named after a Kumbaya moment in which we are all united. 

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

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