The ROKiT name isn’t on the StubHub Center field but can be seen elsewhere in the stadium. (Courtesy Los Angeles Chargers)
Startup wireless company ROKiT is using its unique field sponsorship deal at StubHub Center, temporary home of the NFL’s Los Angeles Chargers, as a launching pad for its brand.
The company plans to launch its first mobile phones by Black Friday and is looking to score name recognition and consideration as well as earned media pickup from the deal, which runs through next season. The Chargers are scheduled to move for the 2020 season to nearby Inglewood, where the team will be a tenant in the Los Angeles Rams’ new stadium.
“It’s a big deal and a big deal for us — we’re a new company starting out,” said Clinton Ehrlich, chief marketing officer for ROKiT. Neither ROKiT or the Chargers would discuss the value of the deal.
“It’s difficult to become a new and authentic, trusted brand,” Ehrlich said. “Having our name associated with the Chargers, the NFL” and by association, Nike, Gatorade and other major brands, is “tremendously about awareness,” he said.
The deal provides ROKiT with signage on the archway over the entrance to the parking lot and in the stadium itself, on the scoreboard and through video ads on the ribbon video screen that circles the bowl. There’s a ROKiT Play of the Game on the videoboard, but the firm’s logo is not on the field that it sponsors. Chargers officials say the NFL prohibits that.
ROKiT has a field-level club down on the sidelines with a bar and standup bar tables. VIPs, the company’s partners and eventually its customers can stand just behind the visiting team’s bench.
In a promotion called “Delivering the ROK,” community members bring the game ball to the referees before kickoff. “We find influencers, people from the community who are delivering to the community,” Ehrlich said.
It’s an unusual arrangement for the NFL to have one sponsor with naming rights to the venue and another one with rights to the playing field. The Chargers are renting the stadium through next season from AEG, which owns StubHub Center as well as its primary tenant, Major League Soccer’s LA Galaxy.
“I imagine a number of people are looking at it as a way to create a unique piece of inventory,” Chargers Chief Revenue Officer Jim Rushton said, adding, “We’re in a highly competitive market and a highly unique situation, so it requires us to be creative and challenge ourselves to deliver for our partners.”
Rushton would not comment on whether any ROKiT Field revenue is shared with the team’s landlords at AEG.
ROKiT is a new addition to the ROK Brands family, founded by entrepreneurs John Paul DeJoria and Jonathan Kendrick. The upstart wireless firm plans to offer a range of phones, from flip phones at the low end to state-of-the-art smartphones with a 3D display. ROKiT also looks to differentiate itself from rivals through bundled services such as telemedicine and security.
Activations in 2018 will be limited due to a StubHub Center deal with wireless rival Alcatel. Ehrlich said that deal ends after this season so they will able to bring ROKiT phones into the stadium next year.
ROKiT is already using the field sponsorship to get a toe hold for its ABK beer at StubHub Center. At a recent Chargers game, the company served the brews at the Sideline Club. The company is employing a similar strategy in a deal to put its name on the jerseys of the NBA’s Houston Rockets. The Rockets’ home, Toyota Center, is renaming three bar areas after ROK Brands’ beverages.
Zack Sugarman, Wasserman senior vice president of properties, said, “It’s an interesting way if you’re ROKiT to get the most out of your dollars by activating other brands.” Wasserman is active in naming-rights deals but did not work on the ROKiT-Chargers agreement.
Sugarman says that there will be more of these field naming-rights deals but that teams will be selective and strategic. “There’s an opportunity for brands to pick up naming rights. You’ll see it for challenger brands … you’re going to get a lot of earned media pickup. For everything going on at the stadium, it’s ROKiT Field at StubHub Center. For a relatively smaller investment, (ROKiT’s) getting additional pickup.”
Ehrlich says ROKiT would like to stay involved with the Chargers and be visible in the L.A. market beyond next season. That would certainly mean a higher price tag to sponsor both the Rams and Chargers as well as the new Inglewood stadium. It is already slated to host the Super Bowl and NCAA men’s basketball Final Four soon after opening in 2020.