The Nashville Predators have played in the NHL since 1998 and is the main tenant of an arena in the city’s downtown area. Since the venue opened it has had 5 different identities: Nashville Arena, Gaylord Entertainment Center, Nashville Arena (again), Sommet Center, and Bridgestone Arena. The latest name could show up on signage as early as next week following the announcement yesterday of a 5-year agreement between Bridgestone and the Predators. Congratulations, Bridgestone, you have just bought a rather used marketing asset- now what?
If the naming rights to this facility were a dress in a department store, one might think it would be found on the 75% off clearance rack because of its shop-worn condition. Five names in 12 years would be an unwise approach to branding a product, but the name changes happened, leaving the Predators to make the best of the situation. The team has found an ideal naming rights partner for the venue. A company with a strong local presence (Bridgestone’s North American headquarters is in Nashville) that wants to support professional sports in the market fits the bill for a sports venue naming rights partner. A corporate partner with local ties is even more important in a smaller market like Nashville. The benefits of having a corporate name on the venue in terms of media exposure are not as great as it would be in a major market, so the potential buyers for the venue’s naming rights are fewer in number.
While there are challenges in re-branding a sports venue, the frequent changes in names could actually benefit Bridgestone in this case. The length of time the previous corporate names were on the building were relatively short (7 years for Gaylord, 3 years for Sommet) given that the length of naming rights agreements can be 10 years or more. Bridgestone has developed a strong presence in sports in recent years on a national scale as official sponsor of NFL, NHL, MLB, and the Super Bowl halftime show. The company has now extended that presence to its headquarters city. Bridgestone is an excellent fit as naming rights partner for the venue. A 5-year deal gives the company some flexibility in determining the value of sponsoring the venue, but it would not be surprising to see the Bridgestone name on the building for years to come.