How To Make Naming Rights Work for You
Tips on how to use naming rights properly to maximize donor appeal.
By Cynthia McMannon
Cynthia McMannon, CMAA, is the Assistant Executive Director of Finance and Human Resources at the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA).
Naming rights is the term used when, in exchange for a specific amount of money over a specific time frame, something (a building, stadium, classroom, locker room, etc.) is named after, or in honor of, a person, corporation, business, etc. For example, if a school district or high school receives a significant amount of money from "John Smith Company" to pay for the building or renovation of a football stadium, that stadium may be called "John Smith Memorial Stadium."
But, naming rights don't always involve money. Naming rights can be used as a way of honoring a long-time administrator, teacher, or even a long-time supporter of the school or district (sports- or education-wise).
Naming rights are primarily used in the highly visible and heavily used parts of buildings and/or fields. Sports-related areas may include plazas, auditoriums, locker rooms, diving platforms, basketball or tennis courts, a weight room, or a coach's office. To increase athletics-related naming rights, booster clubs may also consider the sponsorship of an individual athletic contest, such as a football or basketball game.
Booster clubs don't have to limit naming-rights options strictly to athletic areas. They should also consider special school events, programs, and other school or district facilities. Highly visible non-athletic areas include the cafeteria, library, computer labs, or perhaps an auditorium stage.
Ideas to think about:
- Corporations and businesses are interested in naming rights of facilities with high traffic and high visibility.
- Offer annual sponsorships of specific school areas with fees ranging from inexpensive ($200) to expensive ($1,000 and up).
- Provide a plaque to the donor and place another in a conspicuous location in the area being sponsored.
- To save costs, try to have the plaques and decals donated.
- Be creative and use non-traditional areas or school district properties. In Dallas, Texas, Grapevine High School is directly underneath the Dallas International Airport's flight path. Realizing the visibility potential, the high school entered into a 10-year deal with Dr. Pepperreportedly worth about $4 millionto place the Dr. Pepper logo on the school's roof, where it can be seen by air travelers.
- Consider selling logos of local or national businesses printed on your gym floor. An Omaha, Neb., school district made plans to replace a high school gym floor with one featuring up to 10 corporate logos that sold for $10,000 each.
- Naming rights work well for non-public schools, too. At a private parochial school in Phoenix, Ariz., the school raised $5 million to build a performing arts center (named: Virginia Piper Center for Performing Arts) and $250,000 for its library (renamed: Baldwin Library). The naming rights costs for classrooms, its dance center, and other rooms ranged from $25,000 to $50,000 each. Individual auditorium seats in the performing arts center were also sold for $5,000 each and have a small plaque inscribed with the donor's name on the armrest.
Some risks groups should keep in mind:
- Do not sell naming rights too cheaply:
1. When determining prices to charge, don't forget to factor in fulfillment costs, such as advertising (i.e., the cost of a page in your program), banners, signs, and plaques for donors, etc.
2. Determine in advance how much you will charge to name a classroom, auditorium, stadium, etc.
- Have an "Out" clause in your legal agreement stating that the school district has the right to "take" the name away if there is an incident that is embarrassing or damaging to the school.
- Consider a time frame for naming rights. These will be less expensive, but will provide more selling opportunities in the future (i.e., name a classroom for five years only).
- Be sure that before signing any agreement that it is clear to the donor that it:
1. Will not be involved in the administration or direction of your athletic program
2. Will not be involved in staffing or coaching decisions
3. Will not have a say in how the gym, field, etc. will be designed or built.
- The contract should also cover what will occur should the donor back out of the commitment.
McMannon has contributed several articles to FundraisingForSports.com, and has recently received her Master's certification in athletic administration. She may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.