Thursday, November 30 2023

The New York Red Bulls have once again begun the process of selling the naming rights to Red Bull Arena, the team’s 25,000-seat stadium in Harrison, N.J.

The MLS club has recently had conversations that are “speeding up,” president/GM Marc de Grandpré said in the most recent episode of the Sporticast. The team, which is owned by the Austrian energy drink giant, is planning to hire an outside firm to assist with the sale, though that contract hasn’t yet been finalized, de Grandpré said.

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The decision to market the naming rights of Red Bull Arena comes amid a surge in commercial interest from sponsors looking to get into MLS on the heels of Lionel Messi’s arrival in Miami. De Grandpré said that the Red Bulls, which host Messi’s Inter Miami CF on Saturday, have seen an uptick in various partnership interest that he directly attributes to increased attention that has accompanied Messi’s first few MLS games.

It’s unclear if Red Bull currently pays anything for the naming rights to the building—a team spokesman declined to comment—though that would largely be an accounting formality given that the team owns and operates the building. The company is also the team’s front-of-jersey advertiser, a set-up similar to Red Bull’s other franchises in soccer, hockey and racing.

“This [naming rights decision] was a long discussion internally about, Should we do it? Should we not do it?,” de Grandpré said on the podcast. “We’re going to see if there’s appetite to get a partner to the arena.”

Naming rights to the stadium, which is open-air, could fetch between $7 and $10 million annually, according to Eric Smallwood, president and managing partner of Apex Marketing Group, a sponsorship consultancy that sells naming rights. That would put it on the upper end of MLS. In January, LAFC inked a 10-year, $100 million deal with BMO that is the largest-ever in annual value ($10 million) for an MLS-specific venue. Real Salt Lake recently signed a 15-year deal worth nearly $100 million with America First Credit Union ($6.67 million per year).

Red Bull Arena opened in 2009, following multiple delays, at a cost of about $200 million. The club, previously known as the MetroStars and owned by AEG, was sold and renamed in the middle of the project’s construction. The venue’s seats include a large Red Bull logo (the drink, not the club) on one side.

The team has explored selling naming rights in the past. In 2017, it retained both Leverage Agency and MP & Silva to evaluate its options; the following year, it worked with Fenway Sports Group. Neither of those processes led to a deal.

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