The Philadelphia 76ers will no longer refer to their home arena as The Wells Fargo Center. Instead, the team will either call it The Center or refer to games and events held “at the Sixers’ home arena.” This isn’t a nostalgia driven decision to hearken back to the days of The Boston Garden or The Forum, but a business decision by the front office.
Wells Fargo does not have a business relationship with the 76ers. It is not the official financial partner or bank of the Sixers, so essentially any mention about the naming rights partner of the arena itself was free exposure. The Sixers do not own the building they play in — the team is a tenant — nor do they appear to benefit from the naming rights sold by the arena’s owner, Comcast Spectacor. Due to this issue, and the inability of Wells Fargo to come to an agreement with the Sixers, the team decided the free ride was over.
It will be interesting to see what else the NBA and the Sixers can do to limit Wells Fargo exposure during broadcasts. Surely the Sixers will have trained their local television partner to not reference the bank’s name during broadcast.
The NBA won’t have an issue with this since the official banking partner of the NBA is BBVA, but training national broadcasters to get the correct corporate name down might be difficult. The NFL had issues with announcers calling Microsoft Surfaces iPads during broadcasts, although the term iPad has become ubiquitous for tablets while Wells Fargo is just another bank. If an announcer is used to welcoming television viewers to the Wells Fargo Center, they could slip up. Overhead/exterior shots of the arena could also provide a sliver of exposure because the sign in front of The Center isn’t coming down.
Another issues is that Comcast Spectacor as owner and manager of the building is still allowed to sell sponsorship inventory to whatever company it pleases. Essentially Comcast Spectacor and Wells Fargo could plaster the building, and the building controls some in-arena signs with Wells Fargo corporate branding.
The Sixers have every right to not mention Wells Fargo. Essentially the team has given the bank the benefits of being a corporate partner without having a deal in place. This will allow the Sixers to create further revenue with a new banking partner. By dropping any references to Wells when discussing the arena, Philadelphia essentially limits confusion if the team creates a deal with a number of partnership prospects.
Michael Colangelo is Assistant Director at the USC Sports Business Institute and Senior Editor of The Fields of Green.