St. James…where? You mean the Sports Direct Arena

Newcastle United have announced that their 119 year old home of St. James Park is to be renamed the Sports Direct Arena – Sports Arena being the billion pound retail empire headed up by Newcastle owner Mike Ashley.

A move that is causing widespread backlash from Newcastle fans, the change has essentially been carried out to allow fans ‘to get used to’ the idea of a branded stadium. This foreshadows Newcastle’s search for a sponsorship partner for the stadium and the football shirts in what is likely to be a multi-million pound opportunity for numerous brands.

But is it such a bad thing?

Fans will no doubt still refer to it as St. James Park in everyday conversation, whilst the chosen sponsor will still benefit from the use of the official name when referenced by journalists, broadcasters and commentators alike.

Stadium sponsorship is an ever-increasing addition to the world of sport, but for me it isn’t something that should be rejected due to a commitment to tradition. The idea of tradition, particularly in top flight football, has steadily declined following the formation of the Premier League in 1992, and as such the notion of stadium sponsorship should be embraced by fans as it brings much needed additional revenue streams to an industry where tighter financial stipulations is inevitable.

For a previous blog on stadium sponsorship click here.

I’ll have the cigarettes with the generic design please

From 1 January 2012, it’s looking increasingly likely that the Australian parliament is to introduce The Plain Packaging Act. This will see all cigarette brands forced to adopt the above proposed designs, which will include graphic health warnings and only small type at the bottom distinguishing their brand.

Now what immediately springs to mind is that this seems a rather draconian measure, one step away from a complete ban on cigarettes. It forcibly instructs brand how their product will look on the shelves, seemingly contravening ‘freedom of speech’.

However in the long term I do think it is a positive step as the personal and passive effects of smoking can be, and are, life threatening in certain quantities. This act should also reduce snap decision making in shops, and reduce first-time brand engagement, particularly from young people who don’t seem to understand the true health risks.

Does it define Australia as a nanny state? Perhaps, but severe restrictions on cigarette sales have been an eventuality since the true health risks were brought to mass attention in the 1950s..

Just one final question to ponder, what’s next?


The benefits of stadium sponsorship

The new season for the 72 Football League teams kicked off this weekend, including that of promoted club Brighton & Hove Albion who secured a 2-1 win over Doncaster in a fitting opening for their American Express Community Stadium.

Otherwise known as The AMEX, Brighton’s new stadium is another example of football clubs adding additional revenue streams as commercialism continues to grow in the sport. Whilst the sponsoring of stadiums caused some unrest at the beginning of the 21st century, it now seems to cause fewer concerns amongst supporters, primarily because of the benefit of this additional revenue.

This doesn’t mean every football club needs to sell the naming rights to their stadium, but it should raise the question in the boardrooms of these clubs – should we? Perhaps a surprising statistic uncovered in researching this topic is the revelation that 11 out of 24 League Two clubs have sold the naming rights to their stadiums. It appears that as the gulf between the Premier League and the Football League grows ever wider, these clubs are focussed on ensuring financial survival through less traditional methods.

As a Derby County fan, I am fond of the name Pride Park; nevertheless I would not lose too much sleep should Tom Glick and the board decide it is time to follow this growing trend. My only requirements would be the need for a respectable business or brand as the stadium sponsor and guaranteed revenue for the club.

Let’s also not forget the reason why businesses choose to sponsor these stadiums – widespread awareness through reference in newspapers, on Sky Sports News, Final Score and 5 Live to name just a few. As such, it will be fascinating to note just how many clubs choose to sell these naming rights over the course of this new season and beyond.