In The News

New Bulls Building Could Fetch Big Bucks for Naming Rights

Crain's Chicago Business, November 26, 2012

By Danny Ecker

The Bulls' new practice facility across the street from the United Center isn't scheduled to open for two years, but it offers a prime opportunity for a blue-chip brand to snag naming rights.

Unlike the Berto Center in Deerfield, which has served as the team's training and media center since 1992 and was named in memory of the late Sheri L. Berto, Jerry Reinsdorf's longtime assistant, the new building could have a corporate tag fetching as much as $1 million, based on comparable deals at other NBA practice facilities.

Toyota Motor Corp., for example, pays about $1 million annually for naming rights to the Toyota Sports Center near Los Angeles International Airport, the training facility for the Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Kings, according to an estimate from Chicago-based sports marketing firm IEG LLC.

The Boston Celtics, meanwhile, collect about $500,000 a year from naming rights to their suburban practice facility, the Sports Authority Training Center at HealthPoint.

A number of other NBA teams also sell corporate naming rights to their practice gyms, including the Brooklyn Nets (PNY Center), Cleveland Cavaliers (Cleveland Clinic Courts) and Utah Jazz (Zions Bank Basketball Center).

"It would be an attractive opportunity," said IEG Senior Vice President Jim Andrews. "Having that downtown location is important."

It's still very early in the process, but a Bulls spokeswoman said the team has "had some people show some interest" in buying naming rights to the new 55,000-square-foot facility.

One likely area of interest would be Chicago's crowded hospital market, says Mr. Andrews, with many pro sports team training facilities selling naming rights to the health sector.

Beyond that, it could also be a new sponsorship avenue for Chicago-based brands already aligned with the Bulls, like United Airlines and BMO Harris Bank, though there have not been any formal discussions on that front, the team spokeswoman said.

The value of branding the new building, which stands to be more prominent in the public eye than the Deerfield facility, will also be determined by things like the signage in and around the building.

The backdrop for Bulls' post-game interviews, for example, features the logo of Deerfield-based Hudson Shipping Lines Inc., one of the team's sponsors.

"Many organizations sell those separately (from the building)," says Mr. Andrews. "There are details in those packages that might be worth more to some companies than others."

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