What's in a name? Cash, it seems

Fri Nov 11, 2011 9:25am EST
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By Ossian Shine

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - As Newcastle United fans smolder with indignation at the re-naming of their St James' Park stadium to the 'Sports Direct Arena', a brief scout around the sporting world suggests they might instead count their blessings.

For while the rebranding of the 119-year-old venue has enraged many of the English premier league soccer club's supporters, this fiscally motivated move would appear mild compared to some steps taken by team owners, leagues and athletes to boost their bank balances.

Thai boxers, for example, think little of changing their names. Highly rated flyweight, the former Prasitsak Papoem, now goes by the moniker of Kwanpichit 13 Rien Express, having named himself after a Bangkok eatery.

A bantamweight by the name of Pichitchai Twins Gym also earns his living in the ring, though presumably he is no close relation to super bantamweight Petch Twins Gym, featherweight fighter Kompetch Twins Gym, nor even a distant cousin to Komrith Eveready-Gym. Samson 3-k battery, meanwhile, was a powerful super flyweight who retired with a 43-0 record.

Since the early days of British soccer club shirt sponsorship in the 1970s and '80s, and British show-jumping horses named after double-glazing firms, there has been an inevitable influx of commercialization in sport, and of the re-branding of sporting properties.

But, as one sports branding expert told Reuters, it is key to get the fit between sponsor and property right.

"Successful naming rights deals are rare things," said Singapore-based James Scholefield.

"There's no doubt that newly built stadia do offer brands great opportunities to 'own' real estate from a branding point of view, but more importantly to imbed themselves in the everyday argot of fans and, indeed, the media.   Continued...