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What will be the next name at the Buffalo Bills stadium?

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The Buffalo Bills football stadium formerly known as New Era Field

  DoorDash stadium anyone?  Could there be an M&T Bank Stadium in both Baltimore and Buffalo?

  With New Era Cap Company pulling away from their stadium naming rights with the Buffalo Bills, a look at the companies that are doing well in this COVID-19 economy, and those that traditionally bid on stadium naming rights could hold some clues as to who might emerge as the next to hang their name in Orchard Park.

“I'd look at the question through the lens of who's doing well or not during the pandemic,” said Ben Fischer, a reporter who follows stadium-related issues for Sports Business Journal, a national publication  in New York City.  “If you've got some major health system that wants to promote a telehealth app, they could be really in the market for that. I mean (something like) an  online delivery service."

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Hear Ben Fischer from Sports Business Journal with WBFO's Dave Debo
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  In most cases, the companies who have purchased naming rights in other cities are national names or very large regional operations-- such as Buffalo-based M&T Bank in Baltimore.   Would they go with the local connection and put their name on two facilities?

“I'd be surprised if a regional bank thought it was necessary to do it in two stadiums, but it's not totally unprecedented. American Airlines and Mercedes As a sponsor of multiple major pro sports arenas doesn't sound like it would be very profitable. But I don't think you'd rule it out,” Fischer said.

Of the NFL’s 30 stadium-naming deals, 10 are with banking, insurance and financial services companies. Three others are in the energy field and two are technology or communication companies.  The remainder are a wide variety of  big-name national consumer products (Gillette, Ford, FedEx etc.) Three are generic names without a corporate tie.

“The classic example of a naming rights deal is a local company that wants his brand to become a little bit more national. With the Bills on sort of on an upswing on the field, you know, a national company could be considered a buyer. Whereas five years ago, I would have said there would be no national level interest in it,” Fischer said. 

Fischer also says that in the age of COVID-19, teams like the Bills could settle for lower priced deal than they would in more robust times .  A lower price could bring in smaller regional company that would otherwise not compete for such a deal.

The end of a 10-year deal with New Era was announced by the team on July 16, four years into the agreement. No reason was provided for the move, though it comes a little over a week after New Era Cap Company laid off 117 employees at its Buffalo-based headquarters.

"The Bills and New Era are currently negotiating the details of this separation and the Bills are beginning the process of pursuing a new naming rights partner for the stadium," the team and the company said in a joint statement.

While all teams are struggling financially, the New Era naming deal was not a major revenue stream.   Terms have never been made public, but Fischer says the original agreement has been reported to be $4 million to $5 million.  By contrast, the team takes in approx. $25 million in television broadcast rights fees. 

The Buffalo News has reported that the team and New Era had been working with New Era for "well over a year" to restructure the deal to support their business. Fischer says that work could mean a bidder is warming up on the sidelines already.

But unless that’s the case-- he’s doubtful that things will move quickly.

“One possibility is that they were able to come to terms with a break fee to end the New Era thing now, because they've got a good reason to believe that somebody is in the wings waiting to do a deal. If that's the case… you could get a new name on Stadium by this season,”

“Unless they've got somebody who's ready to step in though. I think you're looking 12 to 18 months. These deals don't happen in a vacuum. They take a long time, even in good times. And now you've got to get through everyone. All the buying company’s boards will question about whether it is really the best use of their money,” he says.

And any deal is also subject to other scrutiny and approval.

Shortly after the announcement, TUSHY, a manufacturer of bidet conversion attachments for toilets sent out a statement saying they were prepared to offer a $12.5 million bid, which would include installation of their devices at portable toilets on stadium grounds.

 It is not known whether they submitted a serious offer to the Bills. Their public statement also said they’d pursue a deal to name a college facility “The Toilet Bowl”.

“They won’t get it even if the highest offer,” Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz wrote on Twitter. “All names are subject to county and state approval and anything that embarrasses the community is dead on arrival. It’s in the lease we negotiated.”

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