Darren Heitner Quoted On Naming Rights Deals

The University of Florida’s O’Connell Center has brokered its first naming rights deal. The arena will re-open in mid-December 2016 with Exactech as the naming rights sponsor.

Kevin Brockway of The Gainesville Sun asked UF and UF Levin College of Law graduate Darren Heitner for commentary on the deal.

Naming rights deals on stadiums and arenas serve different purposes for different companies, according to sports business and legal expert Darren Heitner.

“We all know naming rights deals as simply slapping a brand’s name on a stadium or an arena but there’s a lot that goes into it,” said Heitner, a sports and entertainment lawyer and Florida Levin School of Law graduate. “The agreements have to address the scope of the definition of the deal and have endgame provisions. There are a lot of clauses that go into these deals that also determine the extent of the sponsorship, what categories it covers, in addition to simply having the name on the stadium or the arena, how it’s even phrased, which can be very important.”

Heitner said it’s often tough to tell whether companies get “bang for their buck” when it comes to putting names on sports complexes. In Miami, for example, Joe Robbie Stadium has undergone a number of corporate name changes, from Pro Player to Landshark to Sun Life, in its 29-year history. San Diego State changed the sponsorship agreement of its arena agreement, from Cox Cable to Viejas Casino, in 2009.

“Various brands have various strategies with regards to naming rights,” Heitner said. “For some it’s simply having the brand exposure out there, others may be more interested in using the naming rights as a way to have more participation and more interactivity with the local community, and I think that’s probably more of the case here.”