Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Naming rights! (attention: much geekery ahead)

In case you haven't heard, the TaCoTex* is getting a big fancy football stadium. Well, even the high school stadiums here are big (10,000) and fancy (luxury boxes), but I'm talking about the Cowboys' Ginormous Spaceship of Tomorrow. With a pricetag of $1 billion-with-a-b, Jerry Jones is definitely going to go for some naming rights. (And it wouldn't surprise me if he goes for two, à la the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl presented by Bridgestone.) So, my predictions:

National companies
It's almost impossible to guess among national companies, simply because there are so many to choose from. So I'll just pick a few that I think would do it:

- AT&T The company's huge again, it is based in Texas (San Antonio) and it's on a big name-recognition campaign as it swallows the Cingular brand. An iconic name for an iconic team. (And yes, I hate to admit the latter.)

- Wells Fargo Banks and financial-type businesses are usual suspects for naming rights — in the NFL alone you have Bank of America, Lincoln Financial, Invesco, M&T Bank, Raymond James and Edward Jones — but all Wells Fargo has is the Arizona State women's basketball arena. So I could see it making a push for the big leagues.

Local companies
The naming rights might or might not get sold to a local company, but there's a good chance — around here we have stadiums named after American Airlines (the F-Dub), Pizza Hut (Addison, next to Dallas) and Dr Pepper/7up (Plano), vs. Ameriquest (California). Anyway, narrowing down the field like this makes it easier to analyze.

- TXU (Dallas) The big utility in these parts (you may have seen it in the news lately). This was my top pick for a long time: Of all the corporations based here, it's one of the few with lots of cash. I could have seen TXU buying the naming rights not only for the instant publicity boost but also to compete with Reliant Energy, which owns the name to Houston's stadium. With a deregulated electric market (which means I can choose who my power comes from), competition is big. However, now that they're being sold, I can't picture the private equity groups that are shelling out $44 billion seeing the stadium name (with a price in the tens of millions) as a priority, especially if they try to flip the company for a profit.

- Exxon Mobil (Irving) It's got a ton of money, that's for sure. And while Mobil used to sponsor stuff, like the Cotton Bowl, the new behemoth doesn't really seem like the naming type. Although a widely despised company would be a good fit for a team that much of the nation despises as well.

- American Airlines (the F-Dub) The Metroplex's biggest employer already has the American Airlines Center, so I don't think it'll go for more. Plus it's not exactly on solid financial ground.

- Southwest Airlines (Dallas) On two hands, I can see this happening. Southwest is like the average guy's airline, a company that doesn't mind being folksy and laid-back. So I can see it embracing football — it's not a stretch to see Herb Kelleher (chairman) coming to a press conference in a full uniform. And unlike most airlines, it's doing pretty well. But on the third hand, the reason it is financially viable is that it runs an efficient operation, and it might regard the naming rights as an unnecessary expense. So it's a toss-up.

- Blockbuster (Dallas) I could see this one. It, unlike some of your banks and tech firms, delivers the kind of consumer product that most football watchers buy. And it could use a boost as it battles Netflix.

- 7-Eleven (Dallas) Another one of those everyman brands. But even with its local ties — and 7-Elevens all over around here — I don't see very much 7-Eleven advertising at all. So I'd guess it'd be reluctant to suddenly spend so much on it.

- Frito-Lay (Plano) A good possibility, and it's done well with the Tostitos bowl games. But will it spend so much more money to promote just one of its many lines of chips?

- Texas Instruments (Dallas) It's had a long history in Dallas. I could see it happening. Plus I think Jerry Jones would like how Texas Instruments Stadium is sort of an allusion to the current Texas Stadium. (It would continue the theme started by keeping the hole in the roof.)

- J.C. Penney (Plano) Football watchers probably aren't the key market it's after. But "J.C. Penney Stadium: It's all inside!" has a nice ring to it.

- RadioShack (the F-Dub) This is the market it's after (see: Howie Long), but that company has way too much to worry about. I can't imagine Jerry Jones risk a Pro Player Stadium debacle and sell to a company that might not be around 10 years from now.

- Pier 1 Imports (the F-Dub) Combine the reasons why not of the previous two.

- XTO Energy (the F-Dub) and EDS (Plano) The former is a gas drilling company, the latter Ross Perot's data/tech company. They're black sheeps: They're both doing quite well for themselves and could probably afford the naming rights. But as companies in very specific industries, I don't think that either would find the national name recognition that beneficial.

- Lockheed Martin (the F-Dub), Bell Helicopter (the F-Dub) and Vought Aircraft (Dallas) Huge employers around here, but somehow I don't think the people who buy $600 million fighter jets are going to be swayed by a football stadium.

- Acme Brick (the F-Dub) Highly unlikely, since it's pretty small. But I just like the idea of a stadium instantly nicknamed The Brickhouse.

And a final related note

While the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic (there's AT&T again) is moving from the deterioriffic Cotton Bowl to the new Cowboys stadium, I don't expect the Red River Shootout Rivalry — a much bigger draw — to do the same. I expect it to move back to the UT and OU campuses after the contract runs out. Unless Arlington really sweetens the deal, the game is just too lucrative for Norman and Austin to keep passing up on.

And a related final related note: I'm not a fan of MU-kU at Arrowhead. It just makes it harder for the students to go (and it's probably not included in the home-ticket package either year).

*A bit more cumbersome than BoCoMo