European soccer clubs have been ahead of the curve with jersey sponsorships. Now, North American leagues such as the NBA are looking to replicate that form of revenue generation. But soccer clubs haven’t historically seen stadium naming rights as often as U.S. fans. That could be changing. Most soccer fans know about Emirates Stadium — Arsenal’s home — but naming rights sales still aren’t fully penetrated. Tottenham had a lot of questions about its stadium naming rights plans. Now, one of the biggest sports team brands in the world in FC Barcelona is working with Van Wagner Sport and Entertainment (VWSE) as its exclusive partner to sell naming rights and sponsorships for its new $600 million Espai Barca Project.
This is a big deal because in Spain naming rights deals don’t exist often. It is still in the early stages and selling naming rights to Campo Nou — Barcelona’s home stadium — is akin to selling naming rights to Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park or Wrigley Field. The future enhancements and creation of a whole new complex will generate a lot of interest throughout the industry, and present unique opportunities. It could also open up the door for American companies to work in the European market.
As teams and venue owners and operators look for partners for naming rights, American companies such as VWSE will be able to leverage its expertise in the sector. This creates the opportunity to learn best practices in both markets. As VWSE brings its U.S. based expertise to the Espai Barca Project, it will also be able to take some of its European experience back to its partners at home. It also allows the company to create a larger footprint in the soccer world abroad, especially as other clubs try and replicate Barcelona’s amazing goals on this project. It’s interesting that VWSE worked with Arsenal before this and can use some of its experience there to assist with the current project in Spain.
This could be the start of a larger trend. American sports marketing and media companies can use their knowledge and best practices from the U.S. landscape to assist European teams on increasing fan experience and engagement. If those companies can leverage their expertise, sports business may become more homogeneous globally.
Michael Colangelo is Managing Editor of The Fields of Green and Assistant Director at the USC Sports Business Institute.