Sale of Orange Bowl naming rights tied to new stadium concepts
By Paola Iuspa
Orange Bowl Stadium consultants started last week to contact corporations they think will be interested in rechristening the 65-year-old landmark while using it as a marketing tool.
Meanwhile, the city is about to seek bids from consultants to devise a whole new concept for the stadium and prioritize physical improvements that could include VIP and press boxes.
"The consultants' report will tell us what is it that we need to be competitive," said Ileana Gomez, stadium manager. "It will determine the future of the Orange Bowl."
She said luxury boxes are hot amenities in today's stadiums.
The 14-member Orange Bowl Advisory Board has been paving the road to sell the sports venue's naming rights for almost a year. And for the past six months Front Row Marketing Services of Tampa, in partnership with Legg Mason Real Estate Services of Philadelphia, has been analyzing the marketing benefits the title sponsorship will provide.
"A sponsor will recognize four to 10 times return in its investment in marketing value," said John McDonald, senior vice president of Front Row Marketing's southeast office. "They will get all the traditional points of media like billboard, television, radio, print media, international and national exposure."
Mr. McDonald said he expects to be involved in negotiations with naming rights candidates in six to nine months.
The city-owned stadium's full-time tenant is the University of Miami's football team, the 2001 national champion, which has agreed to play there until 2010.
Interforever Sports Marketing, which sponsors international soccer competitions, has a two-year contract at the Orange Bowl and is committed at hosting 12 matches this year, said Christina Abrams, director of Miami's conferences, conventions & public facilities. She said many promoters also stage concerts and festivals in the stadium.
Based on the quality of events scheduled, Mr. McDonald said a sponsor could get about 270 million visual impressions a year through advertising, directional signs, uniforms, logos and brochures. Additional impressions could come through other activities to be negotiated in the contract, he said.
Based on his six-month study, he estimated that naming rights could cost a corporation $1.78 to $2.50 per 1,000 impressions.
His company arrived at those numbers, he said, after interviewing Orange Bowl tenants, event promoters and the administrative staff. The key was to find out where and how planned events will be advertised and the number of spectators projected to attend each.
How much the promoter of each event invests in advertising is an important factor to determine the sponsorship fee.
"There are other ways to add value to the naming rights package," Mr. McDonald said, "like letting the company use space at the stadium to sell its own merchandise or becoming a city-preferred vendor if it meets the city's criteria."
City officials are studying whether to include other city-owned venues such as the Coconut Grove Convention Center, the Knight Center downtown and marinas in the sponsorship package so the sponsor's logo would also appear there.
Mr. McDonald said he can't set a price for the package until he gets the city's decision on including other facilities under the umbrella of a single sponsor's name. But Commissioner Joe Sanchez, chair of the Orange Bowl advisory board, said last year he hoped to charge $200,000 to $500,000 a year, which would be new revenues for the stadium.
"That sounds very reasonable," Mr. McDonald said.
He said the fee could rise if the stadium is modernized by adding VIP seating and other amenities that would attract more people and events.
Attendance at all Orange Bowl events fell in 2001 to about 299,000 from about 364,000 in 2000, Ms. Gomez said, but might rise this year because more fans may want to attend the national champion Hurricanes' football games.
The city plans to remodel the old-fashion stadium. Commissioners recently allocated $16 million from a $255 million bond program to be issued in three portions, beginning late this month or in early August. The stadium has an annual operating budget of $1.7 million, and the city spends about $1.2 million in capital improvements there each year, Ms. Abrams said.
She said the city administration is about to seek bids from consultants to devise a new concept for the stadium and prioritize structural improvements, needed to match up with the new vision. College football and soccer, she said, will continue being the venue's focus.
"We don't want to patch the Orange Bowl," she said. "We want to modernize it."