Ravens target April for naming stadium Meetings are scheduled next month with several potential sponsors

February 10, 1998|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,SUN STAFF

The Ravens, seeking a corporate sponsor willing to spend millions of dollars to affix its name to everything from the team's cheerleaders to its stadium, are several months away from announcing a name for their new downtown home, according to a top team executive.

"This corporation is going to be a big part of everything we do," said David Cope, the Ravens' vice president of marketing and sales.

The team, which paid the state $10 million for the right to name the stadium, is taking its time reselling the right. Cope said he is aiming for a mid-April announcement, just four months before the building is scheduled to open for its first game, on Aug. 8.

The team is sifting through a list of prospects it has identified or that have contacted it, looking for a company to be a "presentation sponsor."

As the Ravens see it, the company will be paying for more than the right to put its name on the building. It will be mentioned in all broadcasts, in game-day programs, and possibly have a retail outlet or product displays in the stadium. It may even have its logo on the uniforms worn by the team's band and cheerleaders, and have a kiosk at training camp.

"We're not talking about slapping your name on a building," Cope said. "It's much more than naming rights."

Cope, who, as an employee of the Washington Wizards/Capitals, negotiated the deal that put the MCI Communications name on Washington's MCI Center, said there are only a handful of national organizations with the resources and interest in such a wide-ranging sponsorship.

Cope wouldn't identify the interested companies, but said they represent a range of products and markets, including automobiles, telecommunications and financial services. Several meetings are scheduled for next month with potential buyers.

Among the regional firms that have expressed an interest, cable television giant Comcast is still interested, but footwear maker Fila USA has dropped out.

The eventual sponsor may be based in the region, but not necessarily, Cope said. The likely costs of the deal -- and such deals can run several millions of dollars a year -- suggest a firm that sells its products or services nationally or internationally. That way it can take advantage of the publicity and name recognition that such a deal provides.

A strictly local or regional company "couldn't take advantage of the reach of the deal," he said.

This much has been decided: the name will end with "at Camden Yards," following the pattern of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Cope said. The name also will likely become a fixture on the city's skyline, as the company will want motorists and passers-by in several directions to see the name on the building.

As for aesthetics, Cope said those are difficult guidelines to write. There was a public outcry against the renaming of Candlestick Stadium as 3Com Park that the Ravens would like to avoid.

"We do care about that, but it is very subjective," he said.

Pub Date: 2/10/98

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