More derision from corporate sponsorship industry over St James’ Park naming deal

Posted on November 16th, 2011 | 32 Comments |

St James' Park, Newcastle.
What's in a name? Lots of potential damage seemingly.
I was planning to write a follow up to my previous piece on why Mike Ashley’s “rebranding” of St James’ Park was ill conceived from the very start and doomed to fail.

In it I was going to outline how the value of Newcastle United’s brand has been damaged so much by this that it will lose far more in the long term that the minimal amount gained through selling the stadium’s naming rights. Going on similar deals on considerably less problematic new build stadiums, this amount will be nowhere near the £8-10 million foolishly quoted in public by Derek Llambias in an interview with BBC Radio Newcastle. Going on similar examples such as Arsenal’s Emirates Studium and Borussia Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park, it will be more like a third to a half of that sum unless a shirt deal is also included and even then, the price is still somewhat ambitious.

As most of you will know, current shirt sponsors, Northern Rock, recently pulled out of their recent rather meagre £2 million per annum shirt sponsorship deal, and it has even been suggested that the furore over the Ashley’s second attempt at a stadium rebrand will jeopardise this sponsorship, as potential sponsors distance themselves from this now toxic brand. As I mentioned in my previous piece on the subject the offer has been almost universally derided by the people in the sponsorship industry who advise corporations on the efficacy of such deals, with one exception, from someone called Jonathon Gabay, who was reported as being an “unofficial consultant” to the club on the renaming issue.

Anyway, my original plans were thwarted as this piece from IMR publication’s “Sports marketing & sponsorship intelligence”, written the day after my own previous item on the subject has already elaborated on the themes I was going to explore from within the industry.

On how Newcastle United’s existing brand has been damaged, and how this may affect a new shirt sponsorship deal it comments:

“First, it is important to understand that Newcastle United is a strong brand in its own right. Its large, passionate fan base is one of the key brand strengths, its proud history is another and part of that history is its home; St James’ Park.

“By damaging the relationship with the former and appearing to degrade the latter, the club’s board has effectively done as much damage to that brand as could be achieved with a single press release.

“The current likelihood of a major international company wanting to take naming rights is very low and given that Northern Rock has just announced termination of its primary deal with the club (not, according to the bank, because of the latest controversy), the issue could devalue the shirt sponsorship rights as well.”

It then goes to back up my own theory that Ashley’s ridiculous “showcase” idea, which I outlined in the previous piece, will actually be a further hindrance, rather than a help in finding a naming rights sponsor, adding:

“Arguably the most bizarre decision made by the club, however, is to brand the stadium as the Sports Direct Arena (named after Mike Ashley’s sports goods company) for a year to showcase the opportunity. What it has showcased to date is the sheer naivety of the club’s board. First, naming rights deals work over a long-term. They are not used for short-term tactical marketing or generating brand awareness but for long-term relationships and brand building.

“Look at naming rights deals around the globe and it is very rare to find any that run for less than five years and most significant examples run for 10 years at minimum. It’s difficult to see how the Sports Direct Arena name can be activated to create a ‘showcase’. There is little time to do anything significant to bring the new name to life, especially with such universal derision among the football, media and marketing communities.

“So what can the board prove to potential sponsors?

“Surely had they wished to demonstrate levels of stadium name awareness and positive resonance, they would have been a lot better basing the marketing on the existing name. What they are inviting now is a comparison between awareness and positive feelings that surround St James’ Park with the results from the change. There is only one way this can go and it won’t be appealing to sponsors.

“The type of major sponsor that the club is targeting will be represented by sophisticated marketing professionals. They already understand how naming rights work and they know how to research the value and potential; they don’t need an irrelevant and counter-productive exercise to help make their decision.”

Although the renaming of much loved grounds with long traditions has previously been avoided, Derek Llambias recently cited Chelsea’s recently announcement that they would be offering stadium renaming rights on their traditional home, Stamford Bridge, as a justification for Newcastle United’s stadium renaming rights offer in the interview linked above. The artocle also compared the two saying:

“Chelsea will certainly have a better chance of succeeding than Newcastle. First, the club has gone about the process in a more professional way having explained the need to increase stadium capacity to compete and fans are aware that the Financial Fair Play rules could hamper the club’s ambitions unless new revenues are found. If it remains at Stamford Bridge, a major redevelopment could dovetail with a naming rights deal to make it more acceptable to fans.

“Equally important, however, is that the demographic and attitudes of the fanbase are very different to Newcastle. Chelsea’s ground is in affluent west London with season ticket prices starting at £595, whereas Newcastle is based in the more working class North East and season tickets start at £345.

“Although both clubs have a long and proud history, Chelsea has been seen as a more commercial and ‘trendy’ club for several decades. The fans saw the first three-tier stand opened in England in the 1970s, hotel and leisure infrastructure built in the 1990s and the words Chelsea and big money are regularly uttered in the same sentence. Its fans, therefore, are more likely to be accepting of commercial change than those of Newcastle. This is not a value judgement and it certainly doesn’t mean that either set of fans is right or wrong – it is a simple fact that there is a difference. In the case of naming rights, it means that Chelsea are more likely to overcome what will be very significant obstacles to successfully achieve a change.”

Although substantial sections of the sports marketing & sponsorship intelligence piece have been quoted above, it is well worth reading the piece in it’s entirety. After reading much material from the industry on how incredibly ill-conceived this latest naming rights offer is, just as the first failed attempt was two years ago, it only seems to reinforce my initial suspicions that the move is in fact a ruse. I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if the hideous “Sports Direct Arena” name remains for years to come, with the club receiving little or nothing in sponsorship fees from Ashley’s Sport’s Direct International PLC. As suggested abpve, it will also make the now vacant shirt sponsorship opportunity far more toxic than it was before too.


NUFCBlog Author: workyticket workyticket has written 1093 articles on this blog.

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32 Responses

  1. “Chelsea has been seen as a more commercial and ‘trendy’ club for several decades”

    Several? wow.

  2. Mike Ashley’s decision to rename St James’ Park “The Sports Direct Arena”?
    107 votes in favour WTF!!!!!!

    Gotta say I am in shock that over 100 fellow bloggers on here would be all for a rebranding that will be of no financial benefit to the club.

    Showcasing the Brand with a Chav Chat Store to try and tempt another business to risk having a backlash like the one we have already….not going to happen.


  3. I have been saying for ages, as Ashley did last time, this temporary display of how something would look is a bare faced lie. It will be Sports Direct for as long as Ashley owns the club as Newcastle is just a marketing tool to thrust his company into the European and far east market. And if ashely does leave, he will conveniently sign a stadium name contract making it ifficial so the name stays long after him. EXPECT without doubt that Shite Direct is on our shirts next season

  4. This is all Bollicks, Cashley will price the stadium out of the Target market, and will continue to pay the paltry sum of 4 k for using St James’ park as an advertising vehicle to his tacky sports brand- please to read Karen Brady Slagging him off this week, taking the piss on how badly he treats our fans. Laughing on how WHU take at least 5k to away games
    Cashley/NUFc only take 1800,blaming Cashley not the fans for the Apparent lack of away support

  5. all he’s doing is creating a club in his own image,”sports direct arena” will be the name,as long as he’s at newcastle.
    he’s trying to rip away at the fabric of the club,until he has no opposition left,to what he is doing.
    derek more or less tripped himself up in his inteview,by saying,”this will dissolve in time,and we will become the history”,it’s like they are trying to wipe out,what has gone before,and rewrite their own cheap arse history,and place at the club.
    eventually when the dissenters,have got fed up with what they are doing,and all that’s left are “rent a crowd fans”,he will basically be able to do what he likes.
    lets be honest,there are always people desperate to watch the match,and will buy tickets.

    i honestly feel newcastle united is gone,and been replaced by this egotists mugs paradise.
    we are third in the league,but it feels like we are third bottom,under this prick ashley.

  6. i agree that this could be a ruse on mike ashleys part. for a businessman of his undoubted abilities to make such a damaging statement..(damaging to both himself and nufc)is almost beyond belief.surely he has advisers in the sponsorship field who would warn him against it. there can only be one explanation,and that is publicity for sports direct.the value of the worldwide exposure of the past week must be immense.he is obviously a very astute man and has used his considerable talents very deviously to gain maximum publicity for little or no cost.he seems to care little for his own standing with the fans but i dont suppose anyone who becomes a billionaire would win many popularity contests! As a company which is not owned by or associated with sports direct i would ask the board of nufc what revenues they receive from sports direct for the current advertising they supply to that company.wouldnt it be interesting if nufc took sports direct to court for monies owed.? also could nufc sue them for damage to reputation? mike ashley owns sports direct, he also owns nufc so could nufc sue mike ashley?

  7. How will the crowd react when the announcer at the Chelsea game says “Welcome to the Sports Direct Arena”. The rection will tell us a great deal. We too can be pushed too far by the allegedly self-confessed “horrible” people.

  8. What are ‘rent a crowd fans’? Anybody know of anyone getting paid by Big Vern & Del boy to watch the lads? Or do you mean the cheap season ticket buyers – which is what I am. Finally I have been able to get an affordable ticket so I don’t have to settle with watching on telly. But it doesn’t mean I’m big pals with the spuds who run the place & who are being tolerated as boot-trader spivs. When they go I wont cry – more fool them if they think I’ve been bought. I’ve got drawers full of NUFC shirts socks and shorts but I’ll never buy one from Mike’s Tat Stall. Its about supporting the team, and that’s it. Yes, I’ll enjoy my match days and cheer the lads and I wont feel like a 2nd class supporter for having taken Mr Ashley’s hand off.

  9. tsunki,you touchy f**ker,your picking it up the wrong way ffs.
    go to the matches now,and there is this malaise,that is creeping into football,and what roy keane calls the “prawn sandwich brigade”,and the overspill middleclass are taking over the game.
    the type of twats who never went to matches,in the 70’s and 80’s,when it was standing,but now come in their droves.

    go to most football matches now,and you will here the same boring chants,ie “who are yer”,”champion’s league,your having a laugh”,it’s become f**kin’ boring.
    these are the sort of fans ashley is interested in,and yes they do seem like a bunch of extra’s from a film
    they are more punters than passionate fans,and if he carries on ailenating people,that’s what he’ll end up with.

    as for people having a go at you,i think the issue is with yourself,as if someone has touched a nerve.
    i dont know your circumstances etc,but i’m not having a go at passionate fans.

  10. Worky>

    Cracking article again mate. Cheers.

    Must have taken you ages to transcribe it all.

    In my view however financially viable or not the removal of the name St James park is to the club it just shows the man’s complete lack of moral judgement and sentiment in his personality.

    He has in fact be EXCEPTIONALLY lucky in some/most of his actions over the last couple of years and the arrogance of the man to be “irritated” by the very people’s traditions he laughs in the face of is astonishing!

    He is a gambler born and bread. How many a times a year will he place a £1million-£2million bet on the roulette table this year, yet he’d sell OUR club’s soul for £8-10 million(a figure I very much doubt we’ll ever get let alone see invested in OUR club).

    FFS he could give our club that figure out of his pocket change and not bat an eyelid if he wasn’t tighter than duck’s ar*e.

  11. sirjasontoon says:
    November 16, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    “Sorry For the FOUL tirade Worky but the NUFC Hierarchy are making my urine boil.”

    Aye, I have to confess that I was deeply shocked Sir Jason. You’re usually so muted in your comments about Ashley and his potty mouthed sidekick.

  12. TROJAN RECORDS 73 says:
    November 16, 2011 at 8:20 pm

    “all he’s doing is creating a club in his own image”

    He’s an F****** ugly bastard as well Trojan.

  13. Trojan Records 73, you need a new keyboard your shift key to give you upper case letters and your space bar after a comma seem to not working correctly.

  14. grammar police, keyboard is knackered and sometimes i have to hit it a few times.
    i cannot be bothered to hit it all the time , when i’m typing , sorry…

  15. GeordieDan says:
    November 16, 2011 at 9:31 pm


    Cracking article again mate. Cheers.

    Must have taken you ages to transcribe it all.”

    Thanks GeordieDan. It’s the audio one which are a bugger to transcribe, then the paper ones. It was the first story I did on the rename thing that took the most time by a long way, this one didn’t take so long.

    It’s the reaerch that takes most of the time. Alot of people just regurgitate already regurgitated stuff found on “Newsnow”, but I also sift through trade journals, speak to contacts if I know any etc. People like Ashley get away with stuff because no one checks anything properly, they just take it all at face value. Ashley and Llambias know this. They also know that people forget things too after a while, so they repeat the same routines over and over again, like we need the renaming money to buy a new striker because the fans demand new players, Mike’s put £140 million into the club (when he’s already taken some of it back), and don’t forget Freddy Shepherd! etc etc ad infinitum…

  16. Trojan is spot on about the fans now it is a bit prawn sandwich brigade who are turning up expecting to see top quality football from first whistle to last and hardly sing, the atmosphere has been embarrassing really considering how well we’ve been playing.

    This is because ashley has drove away a lot of hardcore support who won’t line his pocket and as Trojanator says replaced by people who just cheer goals, maybe who will be less bothered about turning us in

    But I’m still anxious about the Chelsea game RE fan backlash (Ode to Chrissy H there) when we should be confident as I think we were unbeaten against them last year and they’re wide open this year.

    I’ll be there and we need all fans old and new to get behind the team and stick it up ashley and not let him win.


  17. Not a toon fan as you will see, but putting all rivalries aside the renaming is a total disgrace, an insult not only to true supporters but a whole northern community. Some of us will have a chuckle about it but the whole Ashley thing is an attack and attempted takeover of something which is a huge part of local culture.Good luck to those supporters who are still prepared to reject what they see as wrong, even when the team is actually doing when.
    One other point about this thread – I think there were more prawn sandwich people at the toon during the Keegan times, it was the fashion at the time, people who’d never ever been were buying seats for the whole family.

  18. could be a great marketing opportunity for somebody to swoop in at a low-ish cost on stadium and shirt deal then get their name on the shirts and name the stadium St James’ Park again. They would get some backing!!

  19. Derek L says:

    November 17, 2011 at 7:05 am

    “could be a great marketing opportunity for somebody to swoop in at a low-ish cost on stadium and shirt deal then get their name on the shirts and name the stadium St James’ Park again. They would get some backing!!”

    Even for a combined deal on shirts and the stadium, they’d still have to reduce the fee considerably from the amount Llambias is quoting Derek.

    Thanks SAFCwhickham.

  20. Let’s be honest, there won’t be a ‘new’ sponsor, the reason the hallowed stadium has been renamed to encorporate sports direct is because that will be our new sponsor and always has been, the talk of other companies and 10 mill etc is rubbish to semi appease us, likewise it will be “no sponsor found so we had no choice but to go with Sports Direct ” same old crap from the owners.

  21. Duffy says:

    November 17, 2011 at 11:23 am

    “Let’s be honest, there won’t be a ‘new’ sponsor, the reason the hallowed stadium has been renamed to encorporate sports direct is because that will be our new sponsor”.

    Aye Duffy, but they aren’t really a “sponsor” if they aren’t paying anything.

  22. Granted worky, i mean sponsor in name only and i think we all know it’s just free advertising for that rank rag shop SD,

  23. Duffy says:

    November 17, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    “Granted worky, i mean sponsor in name only and i think we all know it’s just free advertising for that rank rag shop SD,”

    Duffy, I think that many do, or at least have it in the back of their minds, but I certainly don’t think that everyone has cottoned on to it yet. Ashley chose his time (whilst we’re third and during an International break) very carefully. Optimism is very high, and this is the best time to bury bad news.

  24. Trojan

    Just got back in and saw your response – yeah mate I can be a bit touchy, sorry. Getting way too paranoid about the bargain ticket thing – I kind of feel guilty sometimes! I know what you mean but I agree that it was worse years ago when every man and his dog suddenly became a lifelong fan but these days I think the fans turning up in numbers are pretty die hard considering what the club achieves – we got some good crowds in the championship and I dont doubt if we were still down there it would continue. I’m sure Mike & his corporate weasels would love to have the silk ties cramming the posh seats but I dont think its as much a goer as it is at chelsk or the mancs – how many of their champagne swiggers would hang around if they had to spend a couple of years in the pop league I wonder?

  25. Mike Ashley is a coward. He can’t come out and face the crowd being very hideous and frustrating time and again. Stadium name should be left free from administrative control. And by the way who needs those extra money to compete with top teams when we’re in the top three without even spending like the so called ‘top teams.’ It’s not always the money or financial backing that matters but players like Tiote, Cabaye who have passion and love for the game which will give us trophies not this name change which is strictly a business policy to pocket money and nothing else.

  26. Indian Toon says:
    November 17, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    “And by the way who needs those extra money to compete with top teams when we’re in the top three without even spending like the so called ‘top teams.”

    Indian, Llambias has tried to blame we fans for the name change, saying that we’re always demanding players so they need the name change to finance that. He didn’t mention anything about that £35 million (and the rest for Enrique etc) until he met the fans in that gastro-bar.