NBA Finals Turn American Airlines Naming Rights Into Bonanza

Multiple-Arena Brand Exposure Value Estimated at Up to $63 Million

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- American Airlines could reap more than $60 million in brand exposure as a result of the National Basketball Association Finals between the Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks that begin tomorrow night.
American Airlines owns the naming rights for the home arenas of both teams that will face off in the NBA finals.
American Airlines owns the naming rights for the home arenas of both teams that will face off in the NBA finals.

Miama and Dallas
The world's largest airline owns the naming rights to Miami's American Airlines Arena and Dallas' American Airlines Center. Now the two primary tenants of those venues will square off in at least four nationally televised games on Walt Disney Co.'s ABC.

That's a minimum of $36 million in brand exposure for American, according to one sports-marketing firm, and as much as $63 million if the series goes to its maximum length of seven games. The airline has also planned its own promotions during the series.

Figure based on cost of spots
An ROI projection analysis conducted by Front Row Marketing Services, a Philadelphia-based naming-rights marketing and sponsorship research firm, showed that American Airlines is expected to receive $9 million in branding exposure from each televised NBA Finals game broadcast. The figure is based on the $400,000 cost of a 30-second commercial spot during ABC's broadcast of the The Finals.

"Wow," said American Airlines spokesman Tim Wagner. "I hadn't seen those numbers, so I can't comment directly, but we think our sponsorship is definitely paying off big time."

American bought the naming rights to both arenas within months of each other just more than six years ago. The airline is paying $42 million over 20 years to put its name on American Airlines Arena in Miami, and the company opened the venue with a splashy New Year's Eve millennium concert by Gloria Estefan on Dec. 31, 1999.

In 2000, Fort Worth, Texas-based American committed a whopping $195 million over 30 years for naming rights to nearby Dallas' American Airlines Center.

Many exposure opportunities
Front Row projects that American will receive an estimated 11 minutes and 15 seconds of in-broadcast exposure during each game's broadcast via in-arena signage, on-screen graphics and verbal mentions. American's logo also adorns the roofs of each arena, and should receive coverage when ABC shows shots from the blimp.

"Corporations should take notice at the value that they could receive from corporate naming rights," said Eric Smallwood, VP-marketing and research for Front Row Marketing Services.

American isn't sitting back and just hoping for the TV exposure, however. After the Heat and Mavericks both clinched spots in the finals, it took just five days for American to turn around a marketing campaign based on the unique circumstances. American today announced the "All American Series" campaign, a string of promotions to help Mavericks and Heat fans celebrate.

"Since American holds the naming rights for the American Airlines Center and the American Airlines Arena, we will have the biggest home court advantage ever," Roger Frizzell, American's VP-corporate communications and advertising said in a statement. "It is obviously extremely difficult for us to pick sides. So, for the duration of the upcoming series, we will stand with all of those participating, rewarding the ultimate fans, surprising some lucky ones with great game-day promotions and celebrating the excitement of both teams with our employees."

American will be looking for the four craziest, zaniest fans in each city, with the fanatical supporters receiving round-trip airfare, hotel accommodations and tickets to a game.

American's only other naming-rights deal is for the American Airlines Theatre in New York City.
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