Exterior of the newly-christened PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh. (Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Penguins)
Marking a first for the company, PPG announced Oct. 4 that it had acquired a 20-year naming rights contract for the home of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Penguins’ CEO Travis Williams said PPG was not the first entity to approach the team about acquiring the naming rights of their venue. Consol Energy had bought into a 20-year contract and, with another 14 left to go, Williams said he and his team would dismiss other offers that had come their way in the past.
However, after PPG came through with “a serious and firm offer,” Williams said the franchise’s interest was piqued.
Bryan Iams, vice president of corporate and government affairs at PPG, said talks began when his company’s Chairman and CEO Michael McGarry approached Pittsburgh Penguins President David Morehouse in the spring. According to Iams, McGarry wanted to know more about the availability of the venue’s naming rights, since the company had been looking for ways to increase sales and visibility of its consumer brands, including Glidden and Olympic.
“The Penguins in particular are really one of the more popular franchises, and they have a lot of visibility in the region here,” Iams said, adding that there are 15 PPG Paint brand stores in the Pittsburgh area. “And we thought it would be a good marketing marriage between PPG and our focus on those brands and the growing following that the Penguins have.”
As good as the deal seemed for PPG, Consol Energy still held the naming rights contract. Williams said Consol Energy has gone through changes in their respective industry, which was impacting their relationship with the arena.
“We approached them and asked them if they would be interested in perhaps relinquishing the naming rights, but still remain a partner with us,” Williams said. Consol Energy approved of continuing conversations with PPG. Negotiations ultimately resulted in agreements between the franchise and PPG, while also allowing Consol Energy to step away from naming rights but still stay on as a long-term partner for the remainder of their existing deal.
“It was really an opportunity to get a win-win-win out of all three parties,” Williams said. He said Consol Energy will be involved in hospitality assets like suites, ticketing and entertainment packages, as well as a flexible theater configuration to be named the Consol Energy Theater at PPG Paints Arena. The theater will boast a customizable arrangement that can fill either the lower bowl or a quarter-house space, offering seating from 2,500 to 4,000 people.
The formerly-known Consol Energy Center did not have much time at all to prepare the venue for opening night of the season Oct. 13. A venue’s name is essential for appearances, and Williams shared that the nine-day period between the announcement and opening night presented “a pretty dramatic shift.”
Signage at the venue itself was done quickly, with entry points being one of the easier facets of the change since the large windows meant temporary signs could be hung quickly. Interim generic uniforms were given to venue staff, with new official garments on the way in 30-60 days. Materials like cups and menus can be switched over as quickly as it takes to print them, while the center-hung scoreboard was replaced with a temporary decal to be changed out when a new scoreboard is bought and installed.
Way-finding to the arena itself by way of street and highway signs will see a longer process, between 60 and 90 days for design, approval by the planning commission and installation.
Williams said that with a new retail-based business coming in, the arena’s brand will be activated in ways very different from what fans have seen before. Iams shared that besides social media contests and coupons, PPG will be pushing community projects like helping to refurbish ice rinks and paint older structures through their Colorful Communities Initiative.
Interviewed for this article: Bryan Iams, (412) 434-2181; Travis Williams, (412) 255-1300