Stadium naming rights have turned out all right for Alltel
Super Bowl will help get the small phone company noticed.
BOSTON (AP) -- When a regional phone company in Arkansas paid to slap its name on Jacksonville Municipal Stadium, the price seemed steep.
Was it really worth $6.2 million for some signs on a building in a small city that got its first major-league sports team just two years earlier? Naming rights were a growing business when the 10-year deal was struck in 1997, but the firm's executives weren't sure if it would be a boon or a boondoggle.
They are now.
Welcome to Alltel Stadium, home of Super Bowl XXXIX.
"It's a very proud moment," said Frank O'Mara, Alltel's executive vice president for sales and marketing. "It makes you feel big. It makes you feel you're a legitimate player, as we've always seen ourselves. But now the rest of the country sees it."
He's not sure how the attention on Sunday's game between the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles will translate into profits for a cell phone company that focuses on rural communities. "There's no science around this," he said, but he's convinced a lot more people will know his firm.
"When we did that deal eight or nine years ago, I assure you, I didn't think it was cheap. But we would gladly accept that same deal now."
Naming a deal
Still, deals to name stadiums can be dicey propositions.
Companies fail or are bought out. The Houston Astros' home was renamed Minute Maid Park from Enron Field after Enron ran into legal problems.Some companies are referred to by nicknames that bring little publicity; many people refer to Bank One Ballpark, the Arizona Diamondbacks' home as The BOB.
"Clubs are still very cautious," said E.J. Narcise, a principal with Team Services LLC, a Maryland company that negotiates naming rights deals.
It seems to have worked for Alltel. The Jaguars, who were entering the NFL as an expansion team, moved into a renovated Gator Bowl in 1995. It was called Jacksonville Municipal Stadium for two years. The Alltel sign went up in 1997 and the company wants to renew its deal after 2006, especially with the attention it will get from millions of television viewers this Sunday.
"You can read 'Alltel Stadium' from either side of the stadium from a half a mile away," O'Mara said. "It's been an exceptionally good deal for us."
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