Experts say Ashley will struggle to sell naming rights

Was Llambias bang on the money?

It's business to them.
I was going to run a poll to determine whether or not people were behind the renaming of St James’ Park but after a split seconds thought I decided against it.

I think we can already guess that the poll would be heavily tipped in favour of ‘No’ at this present moment in time. So with fans against it will the club struggle to attract a new sponsor?

My own personal view is yes. I’m not a marketing expert but it doesn’t take one to work out that no company worth its salt will want to be the next pariah that blots the history of St James’ Park and I doubt they’ll want to be associated with upsetting the fanbase. Having said that, multi-million pound companies are hardly grounds of high morals, and any publicity is good publicity, right?

Not according to these marketing experts, who all think that Derek Llambias will find it tough to attract the sponsor they are looking for at St James’ Park and admit that he has already broken one of the “golden rules” when trying to seek a sponsor.

Tim Crow, the chief executive at the sponsorship consultancy Synergy, believes the best advice for would be sponsors is to stay away from St James’ Park. “I’d be very surprised if any brand came forward and if any of my clients asked me for my opinion I’d advise them in the strongest possible terms not to,” said Crow. “Or they could do the shirt sponsorship on its own, which would be entirely positive.”

You can read Tim Crow’s six golden rules on stadium rebranding here , or alternatively you can just have a read of them below. It’s a good article though which gives an insight into a world that football fans shouldn’t be interested in so I suggest you give it a quick look.

1. The stadium must have only one short name. If there are two names, one of which is the sponsor’s, guess which one the media, and the fans, will edit out? ‘The Reebok Stadium’ works: so does ‘The Emirates’. Conversely, horrors like ‘Sports James’ Park’ always quite deservedly bomb.

2. Avoid re-naming an existing stadium with heritage. If you do, you run the risk of being edited out (The Oval) or the object of acrimony ( James’ Park). It’s much easier to start with the blank canvas of a new stadium. But don’t forget to follow rule number one.

3. The exception to this is when a stadium or arena is unloved and/or decrepit and as a result is going to be re-built and/or re-launched – for example the way the Millennium Dome became The O2 and Lansdowne Road became the Aviva Stadium. But again, don’t forget to follow rule number one.

4. You must pay enough. There was an outcry in Leicester against Walker’s – previously a relatively popular local employer – when it was announced that the company had paid only £150,000 per year for 10 years to sponsor the new Leicester City Stadium. This was unfavourably compared with the millions the company had spent using Gary Lineker in its TV advertising.

5. You must be in it for the long term, for two reasons: to demonstrate your commitment (see also rule number four) and also because if you do it for long enough, the return on investment in terms of media impressions alone will be enormous – as long as you’ve followed rule number one.

6. Once you’ve followed rules 1-5, the hard work really starts – gaining the respect and admiration of the fans and the media for what you’re doing.

Meanwhile, Chief Executive of the management and brand consultancy company Red Mandarin, Shaun Whatling, believes that Derek Llambias was wrong to mention a price in the public domain for a number of reasons. He said: “They’re unwise to raise expectations of £10m incremental revenue and creating linkage with new signings – there’s already antagonism amongst fans to the sale of naming rights and Derek Llambias is now preparing a frosty welcome for any sponsor buying in ‘on the cheap’.”

Andy Westlake is the chief executive of the sponsorship and management firm Fast Track and can’t quite work out why the decision to rename St James’ Park was taken. He knows what he is talking about aswell as he is the man who brokered the deal between Emirates and Arsenal a few years ago.

“I don’t think any brand will be buying in to naming rights at Newcastle unless they are focusing on building a relationship with fans,” said Westlake. “In this recessionary market you have to recognise what sponsorship is about: adding value for fans in the club they love. But Newcastle fans are universally against this. Perhaps Mike Ashley is generating the wrath so that a brand coming in can restore the St James’ Park name and be loved for it. Otherwise, I can’t explain it.”

So the opinions of three experts on the matter there, and all of them say the same thing. I can only assume that Ashley and Llambias didn’t contact these particular experts when doing their research. Either that or we are heading towards a situation similar to the one when the club was up for sale a few years ago. You know, it’s sold, then it isn’t, then it is, then Ashley stays…

St James’ Park forever.

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