To date, only the NHL and NBA arenas in New York (Madison Square Garden) and Detroit (Joe Louis Arena, The Palace of Auburn Hills) have not sold their naming rights. With construction of a new arena for the Detroit Red Wings in downtown Detroit, expect that to change. While any company with several millions a year to spend on marketing their good name is a potential candidate, let’s handicap the field and have some fun analyzing what the potential name that will be hoisted on the side of the new arena in 2017 will be.
The successful bidder will be a company that is willing to spend handsomely for these rights. Based upon recent rights fees, the price this alone is likely to be between three to six million dollars a year, but it could also be part of a marketing package that includes multiple avenues of exposure. While this dollar amount may only buy the services of a speedy center and a sturdy defenseman each season, this is a revenue stream that can be put on books for the next decade or more.
Rule out some popular ideas: Totally forget Olympia II or Joe Louis II – these just are not going to happen. Also, a tribute to any Hockeytown heroes such as Howe and Yzerman is very unlikely. Homages to favorite Detroit companies of yesteryear, like Faygo, Vernors, Strohs or Sanders, are also highly unlikely to happen. Little Caesar’s is also probably not an option. Like what happened with the naming of Comerica Park, the idea of accessing new revenue is the goal here, not recycling Illitch Holdings revenue from one pocket to another. While Amway has been a presenting sponsor of the Red Wings in the past, the Ada, Michigan networking marketing company has a history of being poorly received in its home state. Give a .000000001% chance of sponsorship to glass maker Guardian Industries. Bill Davidson would be spinning in his grave at that thought.
Naming rights have local ties: Either the company is a part of the community or wants to have influence in that market. Yet, companies like AT&T have naming rights on sports complexes throughout America. In our analysis, we examined companies that were more likely to have an inclination to do this and the financial resources to do so. We have narrowed this down to five sectors and at the end will present our top three best guesses for the company who will want their logo all over the place.
#5 – Auto Companies: Many of you would think this one would be a top contender. However, across the way is Ford Field. Rarely does a city have two naming sponsors in the same sector. While Honda Motors is the official vehicles of the NHL, The Ilitch Organization is smart enough to not work with one of the offshore companies, so the most likely candidates are one of the Detroit 3. Our analysis sees Ram Trucks, currently the official truck of the Red Wings, as a likely candidate, followed by a General Motors Product, based in part upon the relationship demonstrated from a giant GM logo fountain in Comerica Park. We speculate that a Chevrolet product would edge out either GMC or Buick.
#4 – Casinos: This year, the Arizona Coyotes changed the naming rights agreement from Jobing.com to Ghia River Casinos. So, the precedence is there for a NHL arena to be named for a casino. Marion Illitch is the owner of Motor City Casino, which would be perfect except, again the idea of new revenue is the goal here. Dan Gilbert’s Greektown Casino could sneak in here, since his sports properties are down river in Cleveland, but egos say him having his name on any Ilitch Building is quite unlikely. Either MGM or Soaring Eagle are also remote possibilities. Caesars Windsor is definitely not an option.
#3 – Retailers: Based upon their histories of civic involvement and marketing, we think that this could be attractive to two of the pre-eminent grocery chains serving Southeast Michigan. Grand Rapids based Meijer would be the better fit, but Ohio based Kroger spends heavily on marketing to give local residents the Made in Michigan feel. We also determine that Belle Tire, the Allen Park based multi-unit tire retailer, has a shot given its support of hockey on all levels and name-sponsorship on broadcasts televised by Fox Sports Detroit.
#2 – Auto Suppliers: This is truly the wild card as well as the growth opportunity for this type of marketing. Having your name of the building could be the ultimate act of one-upmanship for a supplier. In addition, these are found advertising dollars from those who normally may buy suites and tickets, but don’t generally fall into the general marketing mix. One of the more logical choices we see is Magna, the Canadian-based diversified global automotive supplier. We also like other suppliers such as Bosch, Continental, Delphi and Lear as potential options. But, any supplier wanting to make a big splash could be a potential target to keep their name in front of the Detroit 3 crowd.
#1 – Health Care: Hospitals and Health Care providers keep getting bigger and bigger, with a desire to stay top of mind in their prospective patients. Currently, Detroit Medical Center is the official health care sponsor and team physicians for both the Tigers and Red Wings. DMC is a part of Tenet Healthcare, a for profit corporation which can justify the marketing expense much easier than that of a non-profit provider. However, if Henry Ford Health Care or the newly merged Beaumont Health wants to get serious about dethroning DMC, this could be their best opportunity for one of them to do so for many years to come.
So, with the five elimination heats aside, this is our win place and show in the New Detroit Arena Naming Derby:
Win: DMC Health