Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Stadium Squeezed for Value of Name

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Stadium Squeezed for Value of Name

Article excerpt

BRADENTON

Tropicana Field -- or "The World's Largest Pinball Machine" as Hall of Famer Wade Boggs once called it -- has been branded as an antiquated eyesore most baseball purists revile and national media members despise.

The Tampa Bay Rays want a newfangled stadium to play in and claim they cannot survive unless one is built. At issue is where one would go. Many feel moving from St. Petersburg to Tampa would increase attendance as access would be made easier to a larger fan base.

Last week, the St. Petersburg City Council rejected a proposal that would have allowed the team to search for a new site in Hillsborough County, and now the possibility exists the team could eventually move away at some point.

How does all this negativity surrounding the stadium affect Bradenton-based Tropicana Products Inc., which pays for the naming rights through 2026? Experts such as Jeff Marks, who handles stadium naming rights deals for a company called Premier Partnerships in Santa Monica, California, say it doesn't hurt at all.

"It depends on why a company bought the naming rights in the first place," Marks says. "For Tropicana, it's OK for people to talk about it because it doesn't align poorly with their brand.

"Let say it's a technology company, they might not want to associate themselves with an older stadium. But you don't say, 'Oh, Tropicana Field is an old stadium so I think I'm going to stop drinking orange juice.'"

The Tropicana sponsorship situation is somewhat unusual as normally there is a problem with the company and not the stadium. For example, the Houston Astros had to drop Enron from its naming rights deal amid a major scandal involving the company, and the stadium became Minute Maid Park

Tropicana is getting solid -- and maybe even unexpected -- advertising returns simply because the stadium is considered so undesirable. Think about it: In no other baseball market in the country is anyone talking so much about their stadium in the off- season.

"In the case of Tropicana, any news is good news the more it is mentioned," Marks says.

Good publicity

Tropicana Products Inc., a division of PepsiCo and one of the biggest employers in Manatee County, signed a 30-year deal for the naming rights to the stadium in 1996. …

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