From Compaq Center to Arena, here’s why companies take big swings on arena naming rights

Want to know how the tech industry's doing? Just look at who's naming stadiums.

A render of the future Arena

The deal is only the latest of's spending spree that includes deals with sports entities like UFC, Formula 1 and the Philadelphia 76ers.


Any tech company can advertise on a billboard over the freeway or put up a digital ad while you scroll through a website. But some go above and beyond to make sure they're seen.

From Lumen Field to Vivint Arena, tech companies have long been obsessed with making their branding a part of city skylines. A tech company plastering its name on an arena is a quick way to skyrocket brand awareness, differentiating itself from its competitors and helping it "stand out in the digital marketplace," said EJ Narcise, co-founder and principal of sports marketing and consulting company Team Services LLC. These deals also give companies access to hospitality perks such as concert and sporting event tickets for clients, fans or themselves, he said.

But historically, stadium namesakes have been a bad omen for tech companies. A prime example of this is Enron, the scandalous energy company which took over the name of The Ballpark at Union Station in Houston between 2000 and 2002. The company collapsed after declaring bankruptcy in December of 2001, and the stadium was briefly renamed Astros Field in February of 2002 before Coca-Cola bought the naming rights to it in June of that year, making it Minute Maid Park.

You can practically track the ups and downs of the tech industry by the names on arenas around the U.S. As the first dot-com bubble burst, so did the brief tenures of PSINet Stadium (now known as M&T Bank Stadium) and CMGI Field (now Gillette Stadium). 2002 also marked the end of the seven years 3Com's logo spent displayed on the former Candlestick Park. Adelphia Coliseum, now known as Nissan Stadium, lost its naming rights the same year after missing a required payment and filing for bankruptcy.

But despite the fact that companies often collapse after attaching their names onto sports stadiums, Narcise claims there is no correlation between the two. "That would be like saying a company failed because they bought, you know, a huge ad campaign or they did Super bowl commercials," Narcise said. "There's no direct correlation to a naming rights deal, and a company fails for a lot of reasons. Wasn't because they did a naming rights deal."

Photo: FG/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

The Staples Center in L.A. will soon become Arena.

Tech companies obviously don't see a correlation either. Many are hopeful that they'll end up reaping the benefits of having their name in lights. The latest buyer is, which announced a 20-year deal to take over the naming rights of the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The startup is paying a historic $700 million over 20 years, or $35 million annually, for the naming rights to the building, the Associated Press reported.

"Known as the Creative Capital of the World, the city of Los Angeles and the people who call it home have always been pioneers, pushing the boundaries and innovating as the undeniable global leaders of culture and entertainment," co-founder and CEO Kris Marszalek said in the announcement. ( did not respond immediately to additional requests for comment.)

The deal is "almost double" any other naming rights agreement, Narcise said, making it the largest deal of its kind in the U.S. "by far." Jeff Bezos, by comparison, spent just $400 million for the naming rights to the Climate Pledge Arena, formerly known as KeyArena.

LA being a hub for the entertainment industry and a city with high-powered sports teams likely contributed to the deal's unusually high price tag, he said. "It's no different than real estate: its location, location," Narcise said. "But it's also the building itself and the events that are driven there. Plus right now, you'll have LeBron James there for the foreseeable future."

The deal is only the latest of's spending spree. The five-year-old startup has struck sponsorship agreements worth hundreds of millions with sports and competition teams such as Formula 1, UFC and the Philadelphia 76ers in the past year. "If you want to reach several billions of people, sports is the way to go," Marszalek told the Wall Street Journal. "Our objective is to be, in the next three to five years, one of the top 20 consumer brands alongside Nike or Apple."

And isn't even the only blockchain company dropping major cash on brand deals. In March, FTX Trading was approved by the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners to attach its name to the former American Airlines Arena, home to the NBA's Miami Heat. The 19-year deal was worth $135 million, or $7 million annually.

If history is any guide, some of those names won't last the full length of their deals. For that matter, some of the companies may not make it that long. But in a crypto market that continues to boom across practically every company and industry and has become a cultural force in its own right, it seems appropriate that the most successful startups in the space are spending big on stadium names. Someday soon, we'll all be going to concerts at Dogecoin Stadium, and it might even feel normal. For a while.


Circle’s CEO: This is not the time to ‘go crazy’

Jeremy Allaire is leading the stablecoin powerhouse in a time of heightened regulation.

“It’s a complex environment. So every CEO and every board has to be a little bit cautious, because there’s a lot of uncertainty,” Circle CEO Jeremy Allaire told Protocol at Converge22.

Photo: Circle

Sitting solo on a San Francisco stage, Circle CEO Jeremy Allaire asked tennis superstar Serena Williams what it’s like to face “unrelenting skepticism.”

“What do you do when someone says you can’t do this?” Allaire asked the athlete turned VC, who was beaming into Circle’s Converge22 convention by video.

Keep Reading Show less
Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers crypto and fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at or via Google Voice at (925) 307-9342.

Sponsored Content

Great products are built on strong patents

Experts say robust intellectual property protection is essential to ensure the long-term R&D required to innovate and maintain America's technology leadership.

Every great tech product that you rely on each day, from the smartphone in your pocket to your music streaming service and navigational system in the car, shares one important thing: part of its innovative design is protected by intellectual property (IP) laws.

From 5G to artificial intelligence, IP protection offers a powerful incentive for researchers to create ground-breaking products, and governmental leaders say its protection is an essential part of maintaining US technology leadership. To quote Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo: "intellectual property protection is vital for American innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Keep Reading Show less
James Daly
James Daly has a deep knowledge of creating brand voice identity, including understanding various audiences and targeting messaging accordingly. He enjoys commissioning, editing, writing, and business development, particularly in launching new ventures and building passionate audiences. Daly has led teams large and small to multiple awards and quantifiable success through a strategy built on teamwork, passion, fact-checking, intelligence, analytics, and audience growth while meeting budget goals and production deadlines in fast-paced environments. Daly is the Editorial Director of 2030 Media and a contributor at Wired.

Is Salesforce still a growth company? Investors are skeptical

Salesforce is betting that customer data platform Genie and new Slack features can push the company to $50 billion in revenue by 2026. But investors are skeptical about the company’s ability to deliver.

Photo: Marlena Sloss/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Salesforce has long been enterprise tech’s golden child. The company said everything customers wanted to hear and did everything investors wanted to see: It produced robust, consistent growth from groundbreaking products combined with an aggressive M&A strategy and a cherished culture, all operating under the helm of a bombastic, but respected, CEO and team of well-coiffed executives.

Dreamforce is the embodiment of that success. Every year, alongside frustrating San Francisco residents, the over-the-top celebration serves as a battle cry to the enterprise software industry, reminding everyone that Marc Benioff’s mighty fiefdom is poised to expand even deeper into your corporate IT stack.

Keep Reading Show less
Joe Williams

Joe Williams is a writer-at-large at Protocol. He previously covered enterprise software for Protocol, Bloomberg and Business Insider. Joe can be reached at To share information confidentially, he can also be contacted on a non-work device via Signal (+1-309-265-6120) or


The US and EU are splitting on tech policy. That’s putting the web at risk.

A conversation with Cédric O, the former French minister of state for digital.

“With the difficulty of the U.S. in finding political agreement or political basis to legislate more, we are facing a risk of decoupling in the long term between the EU and the U.S.”

Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Cédric O, France’s former minister of state for digital, has been an advocate of Europe’s approach to tech and at the forefront of the continent’s relations with U.S. giants. Protocol caught up with O last week at a conference in New York focusing on social media’s negative effects on society and the possibilities of blockchain-based protocols for alternative networks.

O said watching the U.S. lag in tech policy — even as some states pass their own measures and federal bills gain momentum — has made him worry about the EU and U.S. decoupling. While not as drastic as a disentangling of economic fortunes between the West and China, such a divergence, as O describes it, could still make it functionally impossible for companies to serve users on both sides of the Atlantic with the same product.

Keep Reading Show less
Ben Brody

Ben Brody (@ BenBrodyDC) is a senior reporter at Protocol focusing on how Congress, courts and agencies affect the online world we live in. He formerly covered tech policy and lobbying (including antitrust, Section 230 and privacy) at Bloomberg News, where he previously reported on the influence industry, government ethics and the 2016 presidential election. Before that, Ben covered business news at CNNMoney and AdAge, and all manner of stories in and around New York. He still loves appearing on the New York news radio he grew up with.

A 'Soho house for techies': VCs place a bet on community

Contrary is the latest venture firm to experiment with building community spaces instead of offices.

Contrary NYC is meant to re-create being part of a members-only club where engineers and entrepreneurs can hang out together, have a space to work, and host events for people in tech.

Photo: Courtesy of Contrary

In the pre-pandemic times, Contrary’s network of venture scouts, founders, and top technologists reflected the magnetic pull Silicon Valley had on the tech industry. About 80% were based in the Bay Area, with a smattering living elsewhere. Today, when Contrary asked where people in its network were living, the split had changed with 40% in the Bay Area and another 40% living in or planning to move to New York.

It’s totally bifurcated now, said Contrary’s founder Eric Tarczynski.

Keep Reading Show less
Biz Carson

Biz Carson ( @bizcarson) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol, covering Silicon Valley with a focus on startups and venture capital. Previously, she reported for Forbes and was co-editor of Forbes Next Billion-Dollar Startups list. Before that, she worked for Business Insider, Gigaom, and Wired and started her career as a newspaper designer for Gannett.

Latest Stories