A rendering shows what the Seattle Mariners’ T-Mobile Park will look like once new signs and lighting have been installed. (Courtesy Seattle Mariners)
Execs for Brewers, Giants, Mariners have previous deals under their belts
The three Major League Baseball teams that recently signed new naming-rights partners for their ballparks had officials with a wealth of experience working behind the scenes to complete those agreements.
Jason Pearl, senior vice president of partnerships and business development for the San Francisco Giants, and Joe Chard, the Seattle Mariners’ vice president of corporate business and community relations, worked on the original naming rights for Pacific Bell Park and Safeco Field, respectively, in the late 1990s.
Twenty-plus years later, they’ve signed new deals for Oracle Park and T-Mobile Park in San Francisco and Seattle. Both agreements took effect before the 2019 season.
In addition, Jason Hartlund, the Milwaukee Brewers’ chief revenue officer, was principally involved in three naming-rights deals over the past 2 1/2 years. Hartlund took the lead for the Brewers’ deal with American Family Insurance to rebrand Miller Park after the 2020 season.
That came after he filled the same role for the Milwaukee Bucks for naming rights to Fiserv Forum, their new arena, and the Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Sports Science Center, the team’s practice facility across the street.
“I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that,” Chris Allphin said of Hartlund’s triple play. Allphin is senior vice president for the team advisory group at Van Wagner Sports & Entertainment, which consulted on naming rights for the Brewers’ ballpark and Bucks’ arena.
“Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good,” Hartlund said. He returned to the Brewers in May 2018, two months before the Bucks announced the Fiserv deal.
Hartlund got his start in team sports with the Green Bay Packers. He then worked about 10 years for the Brewers before joining the Bucks in 2015 as managing director of business development and new arena sales. He rejoined the Brewers as chief revenue officer, a newly created position.
“I had not worked on naming-rights deals before joining the Bucks,” Hartlund said. “That was part of the attraction … to be involved with that development and things like naming rights. I got some great experience there and obviously it helped me in the position I’m in now.”
For Pearl and Chard, it’s somewhat unusual for the same marketing executives to revisit high-profile deals two decades apart, but that’s been the case for both of them. They’ve both been employed with their respective teams for more than 25 years. Chard’s tenure with the Mariners dates to 1990.
“We did the Safeco deal in 1998,” Chard said. “To be completely honest, I didn’t really think about being around here to do another naming-rights deal. To some degree, I think (the dynamics) have changed. There are better ways now to demonstrate the value of the properties, just with all the data that we have now and the research you can do.”
Pearl enters his 27th season with the Giants after starting his career in the team’s ticketing department in 1993. He worked on the Pac Bell deal, which was signed in 1996, four years before the ballpark opened in 2000. It was later renamed SBC Park and AT&T Park as a result of consolidation in the telecommunications industry.
“It feels like we’re now in a generational thing,” Pearl said. “Naming rights have been going on every year with new facilities built, but the wave of initial ones in the 1990s, those 20-year deals are all (expiring) now. To see what the market is for an existing venue is going to be interesting. We’re very pleased with the value we received for our naming rights.”
No financial terms were announced for the three naming-rights deals, but consultants brokering these types of agreements speculated on the value based on their experience and industry connections.
The total value of Oracle’s 20-year deal was reported to run between $200 million and $400 million, a wide gap. “If you split the difference (to $300 million), you’d probably be really close,” Pearl said.
“Like everything else in sports, it’s only worth what someone is willing to pay for it,” he said. “You mix that in with an existing venue that’s 20 years old. You’ve got to believe that the value of putting a name on a new facility is worth more money, but the value of naming rights in general has certainly escalated over the last 15 to 20 years.”
In Seattle, T-Mobile signed a 25-year deal valued at about $75 million, sources said. The term length coincides with the Mariners’ lease extension with the Washington State Major League Baseball Stadium Public Facilities District.
“Opportunities like this don’t come up very often,” Chard said. “There’s only 30 teams in MLB. We had quite a bit of interest. We felt fortunate … and it sounds like based on the number of deals that are being done, that there’s other interest out there.”
In Milwaukee, MillerCoors pays about $2 million annually under the existing deal.
American Family Insurance’s 15-year agreement is most likely in the range of $4 million a year, consultants said.
“They had a lot of success as a kit partner with Atlanta United, which won the 2018 MLS Cup,” Hartlund said. “They have experience in sports marketing, and as you can imagine, an insurance company is full of actuaries and data scientists. They crunch numbers, quite frankly, a lot better than we do. It’s a deal American Family would say is fair and it’s certainly a deal the Brewers feel is fair or we wouldn’t have entered into the agreement.”
All three brands are existing sponsors of the teams and have naming-rights deals at other venues: Oracle Arena in Oakland; T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas; and American Family Insurance Amphitheater at the Summerfest grounds in Milwaukee.