As Newcastle United fans smoulder with indignation at the re-naming of their St James’ Park stadium to the ‘Sports Direct Arena’, a brief scout around the sporting world suggests they might instead count their blessings.
For while the rebranding of the 119-year-old venue has enraged many of the English premier league soccer club's supporters, this fiscally motivated move would appear mild compared to some steps taken by team owners, leagues and athletes to boost their bank balances.
Thai boxers, for example, think little of changing their names. Highly rated flyweight, the former Prasitsak Papoem, now goes by the moniker of Kwanpichit 13 Rien Express, having named himself after a Bangkok eatery.
Since the early days of British soccer club shirt sponsorship in the 1970s and '80s, and British show-jumping horses named after double-glazing firms, there has been an inevitable influx of commercialisation in sport, and of re-branding of sporting properties.
But, as one sports branding expert told Reuters, it is key to get the fit between sponsor and property right.
“Successful naming rights deals are rare things,” said Singapore-based James Scholefield.
“There’s no doubt that newly-built stadia do offer brands great opportunities to ‘own’ real estate from a branding point of view, but importantly to embed themselves in the everyday argot of fans and, indeed, the media. I would argue that by rebadging an existing stadium, at best brands are unlikely to get the emotional buy-in of fans and at worst, could end up alienating the very people they are seeking to influence.”