Ensuring the Gabba keeps its name would be sports naming rights done properly

With the ground in need of renovations, the owners of the Gabba – the Brisbane Cricket Ground – may turn to a naming sponsor in order to raise the money to carry out the cosmetic work on the grand old stadium. But it’s been reported they’ll aim to keep the iconic nickname.

Naming rights for sports stadiums can be a sore point these days. Fans are generally less receptive to giving away the name of their ground, and perhaps less realistic to the financial realities of running a sports team or stadium than those involved behind the scenes. That’s to be expected – part of loving your sport is loving its history and the Gabba is an iconic old ground with plenty of memories created within it. It’s also useful for those in charge to get a reminder that they have a duty of care to fans and the sport to not just sell to the highest bidder.

That’s why the Queensland Government in Australia are keen to make it clear that any naming sponsorship deal won’t affect the name that cricket fans in the country know and love.

That makes a lot of sense and will put some of the fears of fans to rest. But you’d like to think it also doesn’t quite capture what the nature of corporate sponsorship is – or at least what it should be.

The idea that sponsors want to take over the name of the stadium just to get their name on a famous sporting venue is one that should be distanced by brands themselves. If you want to partner with any sport it should be because you want your brand to be immersed in its history and fan culture; because you want to put your brand in front of fans and present it as being aligned with, in this case, cricket. Not because you want to buy up sponsorship properties like some real-world game of monopoly.

So rather than taking over the naming rights and just calling it the Insert Brand Name Here Stadium, no one should think it devalues the sponsorship to keep the real name of the ground somewhere in the title.

That gets a little bit murkier when it comes to new builds. Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, for example, never really had a name but was rather given over for sponsorship before actually being opened. But by and large, anything to keep the history of the ground in the name should be retained.

And that should be a lesson to anyone sponsoring a sporting team or venue: doing it just to get your name out there will only make you look cold and corporate to fans, but doing it properly and making a lasting connection between your brand and an iconic sporting institution is a much smarter move.

About author

Chris McMullan
Chris McMullan 836 posts

Chris is a sports journalist and editor of Digital Sport - follow him on Twitter @CJMcMullan_

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