In 1980, I was a freshman at Syracuse University. Somewhere in my attic is a shirt I received along with 50,000 other fans at the Orange's home opener with Miami of Ohio. It declares "I Opened the Dome". . . that would be the Carrier Dome - built at the time for 26 million including a couple of mil for lifetime naming rights paid by the Carrier Heating and Air Corporation. The deal was innovative and controversial... a corporate entity was emblazoned on the edifice ...not the name of a famed former coach, university founder, or mascot symbol.
Twenty eight years later, I sat in the upper deck of the "University of Phoenix Stadium" to witness Super Bowl XLII. We have come full circle. A highly successful and sometimes controversial correspondence school has plastered its name on a professional stadium... for about 150 million pumped into the half billion dollar construction cost.
We think nothing of stadium naming today, where it was once heresy. Oh sure, the new Yankee Stadium remains pure as we are not ready as a Fan Nation to accept that even a reconstructed version of that shrine be dubbed Citibank Stadium or some awkward variation. However, the dye has been cast for the next stage.
Financial pressures, sponsor demands, player salaries, and strapped cities, in my estimation will usher in the age of the corporately named team. Don't shoot the messenger because I am merely pointing to the writing on the wall or the jersey. It already happens in NASCAR and I am predicting it will eventually happen in the National Football League. Try these on for size: The Apple New York Giants, Comcast Philadelphia Eagles, Southern California Edison Chargers, and the Coca Cola Atlanta Falcons. Meanwhile, remember the helmet has TWO facings - we might see the traditional logo on one side and that of the corporate sugar daddy on the other. Maybe that gives the Browns two different opportunities to sell.
Jeffrey Fekete, Author, "Making the Big Game: Tales of an Accidental Spectator"