October 20th, 2008

Rutgers Wants $2 Million a Year for Naming Rights of Stadium

By Curtis Eichelberger
Bloomberg News

Rutgers University expects to sell its football stadium naming rights to a New Jersey-based company for between $1.5 million and $2 million annually before next year’s season-opener.

Four companies are interested in putting their name on the stadium in Piscataway for 15 to 30 years, T.J. Nelligan, founder of Nelligan Sports Marketing, Inc., the exclusive marketing agent for Rutgers athletics, said in an interview.

Rutgers will become just the eighth school in college football’s top division to sell naming rights to a corporation. The sponsor will receive tickets, a stadium suite, year-round advertising and could also secure the rights to sell products and services to the university.

``We want this deal to be about more than just putting a company’s name on the stadium in exchange for money,’’ said Nelligan, whose company is based in Little Falls, New Jersey. ``We want to create internships for our students, we want the company to send their executives to our MBA program, and we want to help generate real business for the company.’’

Valley National Bancorp., a bank holding company based in Wayne, New Jersey, with 193 branches and $14 billion in assets, said it’s spoken to the university about the stadium sponsorship. Executives were unavailable for comment, according to spokeswoman Dianne M. Grenz.

Stadium Expansion

The Scarlet Knights (2-5, 1-2 in the Big East Conference) are in the midst of a $102 million stadium expansion that will increase seating by 13,500 to 56,000. The athletic department, which is $30 million short of its fundraising goal, will use the stadium sponsorship revenue to underwrite its debt, the school said.

Athletics officials at Rutgers deferred comment on the stadium sponsorship to Nelligan, who said naming-rights agreements vary from one school to the next depending on population, enthusiasm for the team, the local business base and the school’s willingness to engage in other deals with the sponsor.

Other top-division schools that have sold naming rights include Louisville’s Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, Texas Tech’s Jones AT&T Stadium, Central Florida’s Bright House Networks Stadium, Wake Forest’s BB&T Field, Troy’s Movie Gallery Veterans Stadium, Syracuse’s Carrier Dome and Akron’s InfoCision Stadium, which is scheduled to open next season.

Pizza Money

In Louisville, John Schnatter, founder of Papa John’s International Inc., signed a 10-year, $5 million naming rights contract in 1996. He later paid another $15 million to extend the agreement through Dec. 31, 2040.

In Akron, Gary Taylor, chief executive of InfoCision Management Corp., signed a 20-year, $10 million agreement last year to put the company’s name on the new stadium.

Copies of the agreements were acquired by filing an open records request with the universities.

Companies that pay top dollar to become sponsors want more than just having their name attached to the stadium. They want the university’s business, Nelligan said.

``There used to a time when there was a copier company servicing the university, and a second copier company who paid to be the official school sponsor,’’ Nelligan said. ``Those days are gone. Companies are not going to do sponsorships unless they are getting the school’s business, too.’’

Deals are structured to provide the universities with money for the sponsorship and give them the company’s products they need to operate. For the stadium sponsor, the business generated decreases the actual costs and creates new opportunities to expand in the marketplace.

``It’s not something universities take lightly,’’ said E.J. Narcise, co-founder of the sports marketing firm Team Services LLC, now owned by Learfield Communications Inc. in Dallas.

University of Maryland

Narcise negotiated the 2002 naming-rights agreement to the University of Maryland’s basketball arena, now called the Comcast Center. As part of the agreement, Comcast got the contract to wire the university with cable for television, Internet and telephone service, Narcise said.

``Companies aren’t willing to pay all this money just to put their name on the building anymore. They want business out of it,’’ Narcise said.

The first company to put its name on a building was the Carrier Corp. in 1980. The company made a one-time donation of $2.75 million to help Syracuse build a $26.85 million stadium and received the rights in perpetuity. Unlike the other six Bowl Subdivision schools with corporate naming rights, Syracuse doesn’t receive annual revenue from the company.

Some schools that could sell naming rights are hesitant.

`Money On The Table’

Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith conceded that he’s ``leaving money on the table’’ by not selling naming rights to 102,000-seat Ohio Stadium.

``People from all 88 counties in Ohio raised money to help us build this stadium, so it’s really owned by the people of Ohio,’’ Smith said in a telephone interview. ``Commercialism requires a fine balance. Some things go too far.’’

Oklahoma Athletic Director Joe Castiglione said the Sooners’ 82,112-seat Memorial Stadium carries too much tradition, and that he can find other things to sell if necessary.

``Regardless of the price, it just isn’t for sale,’’ he said in a telephone interview. ``It might be different at another institution, with another culture. But this isn’t one we’re conflicted about.’’

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