Kraft Heinz Loses Taste for Stadium Naming Rights

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By Fredrick Lee

  • Kraft Heinz paid $57M to have its name on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ stadium
  • 34 African-Americans are NFL decision makers

Since 2001, Kraft Heinz’s (KHC -2.39%) name has graced the stadium of the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers, as Heinz Field Head Coach Mike Tomlin led the Steelers to its sixth Super Bowl championship. However, Kraft Heinz may decide to walk away from the lucrative naming rights. With stadiums getting smaller these days is it worth for brands to shell out lofty amounts of money?

Why This Matters: On average, Kraft Heinz is paying $2.85 million a year under its current deal. A deal like this is well below NFL standards. Private lender SoFi will pay around $20 million per year over 20 years to have its name on the Los Angeles Rams’ new stadium. Teams in similar markets to Pittsburgh are bringing in more money per year for naming rights than the Steelers. Additionally, New Era pays the Buffalo Bills $5 million for naming rights, while Mercedes-Benz is pays $12 million to the Atlanta Falcons.

In 2017, 34 African-Americans were NFL vice presidents, head coaches, and general managers

Heinz Field where Mike Tomlin became the Steelers’ first African-American head coach, and in 2009, he became the youngest NFL coach to win a Super Bowl championship for the franchise. He is the longest tenured African-American head coach in the league. For Tomlin, being the constant face of the franchise in a league of changes is remarkable. He is among few decision makers in the NFL who is African-American.  In 2017, 34 African-Americans were NFL vice presidents, head coaches, and general managers.  This is admirable given that the majority of African-Americans in the league are players, not decision makers.  Being a decision maker in the NFL can be significant when it comes to the lucrative world of naming rights.

Quick trip down memory lane: In 2001, The Pittsburgh Steelers opened its new stadium to replace the aging Three Rivers’ Stadium. As part of the financing the stadium, the owners sold the naming rights to Kraft Heinz. The food company paid $57 million for the right to have the stadium called Heinz Field until 2021. Interestingly enough, the dollar amount paid was an homage to its “Heinz 57” slogan.  

Situational Awareness: With new NFL stadiums, naming rights are a lucrative way to raise money for the owners. For companies willing to pay for the naming rights, it creates ongoing visual marketing for their brand.  

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Frederick Lee

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