Upside and risk in linking corporate name to Mississippi Coliseum
by Clay Chandler
Published: August 6,2012
Mississippi marketing executives say state Agriculture Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith has initiated a money-winning idea with her plans to sell 10-year naming rights to the Mississippi Coliseum on the state fairgrounds.
Hyde-Smith wants to bring the state fairgrounds and its facilities sums similar to the millions Southaven and Tupelo received by selling arena and convention center naming rights to Landers Automotive Group and BancorpSouth, respectively. “I think we’ve got an extremely marketable product,” Hyde-Smith said in a recent briefing of Fair Commission on her plans.
Mississippi marketing executives cite the popularity of the annual state fair, which last October drew more than 600,000 visitors over the event’s 10-day run, and the geographic positioning of the fairground venues near the crossroads of interstates 20 and 55. The high visibility on I-55 would be especially valuable, they note.
The proposition is not all upside, however.
Until upgrades are done on the Coliseum, the neighboring Trade Mart and surrounding grounds, a naming-rights buyer could encounter some branding risks, said one marketing executive.
That prospect has not escaped Hyde-Smith.
The first-year agriculture chief and former state
senator is seeking support from leaders in the Legislature for a 2013 bond package of around $30 million. The money would pay for modernizing both the Coliseum and Trade Mart and improving parking areas.
Putting the naming rights money behind improving the venues make sense as well, said marketing pro Jack Garner, president of the Ramey Agency in Jackson.
Gaining a 10-year commitment would provide a guaranteed income stream to the fix-ups, he said. The idea should be to make a better experience for visitors “and attract even more national-level concerts and events,” Garner added.
Peter Marks, president of Jackson’s Maris, West & Baker Advertising, theorized the buyer of naming rights to the Coliseum and the other venues could gain significant branding as a community-spirited company by having its name linked to the venues before and after they are upgraded.
It’s important to weigh the name-association value over the longterm, Marks said in an e-mail. “For example, if the venue is considered sub-par but the venue is the key to the community revitalization project, the right company may benefit from the recognition received for being a community partner, therefore enhancing the company’s image.”
Liza Cirlot Looser, CEO of Jackson’s Cirlot Agency, sees securing of the naming rights as a huge opportunity but one that would carry risks unless the building and grounds get the fixups contemplated by Hyde-Smith.
The prime outdoor exposure on I-55 is mighty enticing, she said in an e-mail. “From a brand and name awareness standpoint, whomever secures signage on the exterior of the Coliseum ‘owns’ Metro Jackson. A company will have an opportunity to have its name visible along the skyline of the city throughout the length of the contract. That holds tremendous value in the eyes of select corporations.”
But first, the corporate buyer must be sure the sponsorship upholds the quality of its brand
The major obstacle for the Coliseum: Overcoming the condition of the building and grounds, Cirlot Looser said. “Unless buildings and parking lots are well maintained and landscaped, and security is in place, corporations will pass on such an opportunity.”
Trustmark Park is a good example of a naming rights buyer knowing beforehand that the venue would meet the buyer’s high standards, she noted. Trustmark National Bank “secured a new facility that offered excitement to the community through the sport of baseball and the Atlanta Braves (for which the Mississippi Braves are a Double-A farm club),” Cirlot Looser said. “There was a parallel between the quality of the brands and the new facility.”
Philip Shirley’s marketing & advertising firm the Godwin Group advised the Jackson-based regional bank to go for the baseball park deal. But Godwin did a lot of homework before doing that, said Shirley, the Jackson agency’s chairman & CEO.
The agency did a detailed analysis of the prospective value to be gained that included anticipated traffic, events anticipated and their audiences, in-stadium exposure, the amount of news coverage anticipated for baseball games and how much that would include mention of the park name. Next, Godwin applied mathematical formulas of marketing value, seeking to find whether a three-to-one return could be gained.
How did the analysis hold up?
Pretty well, according to Shirley. An independent auditor at the end of the first year ”confirmed it was a good investment of marketing dollars,” he said.
“They found that the value was almost exactly what we had predicted and hoped for. Generally, our goal in any naming rights deal is to obtain a value of three-to-one. In other words, the marketing exposure should be roughly three times what the sponsorship cost. In this case we know the decision was a good one in delivering value to the company.”
Likewise, BancorpSouth believed a 10-year, $2.5 million deal it signed in 2000 for naming rights to the BancorpSouth Arena brought sufficient value to justify a 12-year renewal in 2011 for $3.1 million.
The Tupelo-based regional bank also has a separate deal that puts its name on Tupelo‘s conference center.
“We believe there is value in partnering with these premier venues, both of which add to the quality of life in the region,” said Randy Burchfield, senior VP and director of corporate marketing.
“Beyond benefitting from the heightened advertising and media coverage associated with the various events, we also believe such sponsorships provide a great means of broadening and enhancing our company’s image, prestige and credibility by supporting the many worthwhile entertainment and community related events that are scheduled in the venues,” Burchfield said in an email.
In deciding whether to pursue naming rights, Burchfield said the banking company considers market objectives, market presence and penetration and evaluates the return on investment. “It’s an analysis of the total audience that can be reached and the value of the impressions generated by name mention and visibility,” he said.
Marks said evidence of the effectiveness of venue sponsorship can be found all over America. “The surest sign that any type of marketing works is that companies are engaging in it on a large scale. This is the case with naming rights.”
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