Gwinnett County’s attempt to set a new naming rights record for the Braves Triple-A stadium has suffered setback. The Braves want some control over who can purchase the naming rights.
According to contract drafts obtained under Georgia’s Open Records Act, the Braves are seeking the right to block the county from selling stadium naming rights to competitors of some companies, like Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines, that have exclusive sponsorship deals with the team.
Gwinnett has resisted the Braves’ pitch on this point because it could result in lower naming-rights revenue for the county. Negotiations continue.
“It’d be difficult for us to agree to a [conflicting] deal in the soft drink category — with Pepsi, for example,” Plant said. “We have a long-term and very substantial relationship with Coke.”
Plant would not name other sponsors the Braves seek to protect. “It’s a small list,” he said, “and one that we have said to [Gwinnett] we have to protect now that a [minor-league] team is going to be 35 miles north of us.”
From Gwinnett’s standpoint, reducing the field of potential naming-rights partners is problematic because the county is counting on that revenue stream to help pay stadium debt. “The most important point is, we want to be able to market naming rights to the stadium to as broad a pool of partners as possible and to generate as much from the sale of naming rights as possible,” Tucker said. “The concern would be that to the extent you limit the pool, that potentially limits the [value].”
It all sounds so innocent. It’s understandable that the Braves wouldn’t want its stadium named for a product like Pepsi, which competes with one of the club’s biggest sponsors, Coke. But, is there really any danger of naming the field after Pepsi? This is Coca-Cola country, and it would be difficult for attendants to have to tell customers “we only have Pepsi” when they order a Coke.
The county has unrealistic expectations about naming rights revenue. The country expects $850,000 when $400,000 is probably at the very high end of reasonable expectations. The Atlanta club gets $350,000 per year of any naming rights deal. In reality, what is going on here is the Braves flexing their muscles again to squeeze out a few more dollars. With veto power, a sponsor willing to spend a significant amount of money for naming rights could be courted by the Braves who might suggest moving/increasing their sponsorship 30 miles south to Turner Field. Why take $350,000 when you could get a lot more? The Braves have a good idea of who these potential sponsors might be, so this “small list” likely includes some of the most likely sponsors.
The Braves are in an excellent position to protect this option. Gwinnett County has already agreed to build the stadium: the land has been purchased; architects, engineers, and construction crews are getting organized; and bonds are about to be issued. And let’s not forget the politicians’ obvious desperation to give the Braves whatever they want. If the Braves pull out, the county will have a tenantless stadium for which the Braves could block any MLB-affiliated minor league club from inhabiting.
Gwinnett officials went about this deal the wrong way, and they are getting burned in spectacular fashion. Any local governemnt than plans to court a sports franchise should pay attention to Gwinnett’s example of what not to do. The negotiation skills of Gwinnett officials rival those of Homer Simpson.
Lisa: Do you really think you can get our dental plan back, dad?
Homer: Well, that depends on who’s the better negotiator, Mr. Burns or me…
Bart: Dad, I’ll trade you this delicious doorstop for your crummy old Danish.
Homer: Done and done!