By Martin J. Greenberg and David Krienke
Throughout the past few decades, naming rights agreements have become a viable tool for Major League Baseball (“MLB”) franchises to bolster their club’s presence. These agreements provide funding to construct new ballparks, sign high-profile free agents, and provide an overall enhancement of the bottom line that was not a prevalent in MLB just decades ago. In fact, when the 1994 season began, only one MLB franchise played their home games in a stadium with a name created from a corporate sponsorship. Today, fewer than one-third of MLB ballparks carry a name that is not the result of a corporate naming rights agreement.
In addition to naming rights agreements progressively becoming more common, the agreements have become much more lucrative. Naming rights agreements finalized around the year 2000 were commonly somewhere between $2 to $3 million per year. Just a decade later in 2010, some MLB naming rights agreements began exceeding the $10 million per year mark. The increased value for naming rights may display somewhat of an arms race between large corporations to put their name on an MLB ballpark, however, it allows franchises to receive more revenue to grow.
Source: NY Times
While stadium naming rights agreements have gradually become more prevalent and lucrative, they are an item of inherent speculation. The public is often sheltered from the terms and conditions the agreements encompass because they are not public in nature and not subject to release pursuant to open records laws. Not only are the exact financial terms of the agreements often withheld from public release, but the length of the agreements can create somewhat of a mystery, as extension options and termination clauses may be incorporated within the agreements. Therefore, the numerical figures and terms of naming rights agreements that are released to the public are wholly speculative, and do not suggest concrete and verifiable terms of the agreements between the MLB clubs and their corporate sponsors.
Accordingly, the topic of stadium naming rights has been at the public’s forefront in Wisconsin as of late. In January of 2019, the Milwaukee Brewers and American Family Insurance finalized an agreement giving the Madison-based insurance company naming rights to Milwaukee’s major league ballpark for the next 15 years. This agreement may have presented a bit of a shock to Brewers fans, as longtime sponsor Miller Brewing (“Miller”) will no longer be the naming rights sponsor of the ballpark, and the stadium will no longer display the name “Miller Park” after the 2020 season. However, the acquisition of naming rights in the MLB carries substantial economic implications, and the changing of ballpark names has become much more common in recent years.
Considering the foregoing, this article will attempt to inform readers of some business facets associated with naming rights agreements, and introduce what can be expected from the new agreement between the Brewers and American Family Insurance. The article will first historically examine the naming rights agreement between the Milwaukee Brewers and Miller. The next section will provide several naming rights agreements similar to the Brewer’s 1996 agreement, and then compare these to a few more recent agreements to illustrate how the value of naming rights agreements has increased within the past couple decades. Lastly, the article will offer a background of American Family Insurance, and speculate how valuable its naming rights agreement with the Brewers may be.
II. Milwaukee Brewers Original Naming Rights Agreement
Before moving to its current home, Miller Park, Milwaukee’s MLB teams spent decades playing baseball in the Milwaukee County Stadium. County Stadium was a county owned venue that did not have any naming rights, like almost all stadiums of its time. The ballpark historically served as the home to Milwaukee Braves from 1953 to 1965, and then as the home of the Milwaukee Brewers from 1970 to 2000. After decades of baseball at County Stadium, the venue saw its final days as the construction of Milwaukee’s new ballpark was on the horizon.
In 1996, the Milwaukee Brewers and Miller signed a historic naming rights agreement to name the Brewers’ new stadium “Miller Park.” The agreement was the single largest naming rights agreement in MLB history at the time, and was a reported 20-year agreement that would give the Brewers a total revenue stream of $41.2 million. Miller contributed $1.2 million in 1996 when the agreement was originally executed, and then committed to paying approximately $2 million annually from 2000 to 2020.
The naming rights agreement between the Brewers and Miller came at a critical time when financing the construction of Miller Park was a looming subject. The ballpark was an innovative project that included a 41,000-patron seating capacity and a state-of-the-art retractable roof that allows the Brewers to play their games rain or shine. However, the uniqueness of the ballpark came at a price. The proposed budget for the project was figured at $322 million, which included $250 million for the stadium itself, and another $72 million for infrastructure improvements. Miller Park’s total cost ended up rising to around $400 million as construction unfolded, leaving questions as to how the team would pay all the costs associated with the project. While public financing from a 5-county sales tax played a tremendous role in satisfying the costs associated with Miller Park’s construction, the naming rights agreement with Miller was made as the Brewers were diligently working to meet a $90 million deadline to continue construction of Miller Park. This provides an example of how naming rights agreements can be used as critical gap fillers to finance the construction of new ballparks, and specifically shows how important the Brewer’s original agreement was to baseball in Milwaukee.
III. Historical MLB Naming Rights Agreements
Before examining some of the relatively newer MLB naming rights agreements, it is useful to first look at some of the naming rights agreements that were executed around the time the Brewers and Miller signed their 1996 agreement. Not only does this create an overall comparison of how the Brewer’s original agreement compares to other agreements of its time, but it creates a platform to help illustrate how the more recent naming rights agreements have changed drastically in value. It should be kept in mind that the terms of the agreements shared below are merely speculation, and the actual terms of the agreement may be different than what has been reported publicly.
PNC Park (2000-2020)
In August of 1998, Pittsburg-based PNC Bank Corporation (“PNC Bank”) signed a 20-year naming rights agreement with the Pittsburg Pirates (“Pirates”) to name their new ballpark “PNC Park.” The Pirates played their first games at the new PNC Park during the 2001 season after playing three decades of baseball at Three Rivers Stadium (1970-2000). The PNC naming rights agreement was reported at $30 million, giving the team an annual average of $1.5 million. This places the agreement at the lower end of the spectrum when it comes to naming rights agreements in the MLB.
Additionally, the agreement seems to have carried a further incentive for PNC Bank to ink an agreement. It has been reported that the agreement carried an additional component that required the Pirates and PNC Bank to sign a separate contract allowing the Bank to purchase an array of exclusive marketing rights. While there has never been a disclosed figure of this side-agreement, both parties to the agreement have confirmed its existence. An agreement of this nature provides incentive for PNC Bank because it would allow them to use the team’s intellectual property to promote its own business. This also allows the team to receive a larger overall package for its naming rights, and is a tactic teams increasingly started to use around this time.
The Pirates and PNC Bank naming rights agreement is still in effect today, with the Pirates still playing their home games at PNC Park. However, the agreement is set to expire in 2020, and a new agreement with the PNC, or another potential buyer, surely must be in the works. Considering the Pirates have a small-market value that is similar to the Brewers, it will be interesting to see how a future agreement unfolds.
Bank One Ballpark (1998-2028)
The Arizona Diamondbacks (“Diamondbacks”) were another MLB organization that entered a naming rights agreement near the time the Brewers and Miller inked their agreement. In 1995, the Diamondbacks and Bank One Corporation signed an agreement that was reportedly a 30-year agreement to run from 1998 to 2028, naming the Diamondback’s home field “Bank One Ballpark.” The agreement was said to be worth $66.4 million, resulting in annual average of about $2.2 million. However, a 2004 merger between Bank One and J.P. Morgan led to a phase out of the Bank One name, and the ballpark was renamed to Chase Field in 2005.
Pacific Bell Park (2000-2019)
The San Francisco Giants (“Giants”) organization provides a useful example of how naming rights may be subject to change as a byproduct of company acquisition. In 1996, technology company Pacific Telesis purchased the naming rights to the Giant’s new ballpark, four years before it was set to open. It has been speculated that the agreement was a 24-year, $50 million agreement that was therefore set to run through the 2023 season. While this would break down to an annual average of about $2.1 million, it has been reported that Pacific Telesis fronted $23 million to help build the new ballpark, which opened for the 2000 MLB season.
Though the Giant’s agreement with Pacific Telesis had the intentions of being a long-term agreement, the Giant’s ballpark was subject to two name changes within its first six seasons. Pacific Telesis was purchased by Southwestern Bell Company (“SBC”) in 2003, catalyzing a name change to “SBC Park” in 2003. The stadium’s name was then changed to “AT&T Park” in 2006 after SBC purchased telecommunications company AT&T. While the original agreement with Pacific Telesis was set to last for 24 years, it was more recently announced that AT&T’s naming rights were to only run through the 2019 season. However, the Giants were allowed to opt-out of the agreement’s final year and sell its naming rights to tech-company Oracle. Ultimately, some have noted that the ballpark’s three names changes in a six-year span is a “perfect case study” of why naming rights agreements should address future name changes.
Great American Ball Park (2003-2033)
In 2000, the Cincinnati Reds (“Reds”) and the Cincinnati-based insurance company “Great American Insurance” announced a 30-year naming rights agreement to name the Red’s new venue “Great American Ball Park.” This was reportedly a $75 million agreement that still carries an annual payout of $2.5 million between the years of 2003 and 2033. The agreement was made prior to the Red’s first season in the new stadium, which likely provided a useful gap filler in financing to assist the construction of the 42,271-seat stadium. Of the $325 million used in the construction of the stadium, $45 million came from private financing, with the other $280 million coming primarily from a half-cent-per-dollar sales tax implemented in Cincinnati.
In addition to the original naming rights agreement entered between the Reds and Great American Insurance, the entities have worked further to allow Great American Insurance to be a prominent name at the stadium. Before hosting the MLB All-Star game in 2015, Great American Insurance purchased new signage to display outside the stadium, giving the stadium a newer look. Considering the team’s stadium lease does not end until 2037, and the naming rights agreement is set to expire in 2033, it will be interesting to see how relations continue between the Reds and locally-based Great American Insurance.
Safeco Field (1998-2018)
The Seattle Mariners (“Mariners”) and Safeco Insurance (“Safeco”) agreement is another naming rights agreement of this era that seems to closely resemble the 1997 Brewers and Miller agreement in terms of length and finance. In 1998, the Mariners and Seattle-based insurance company Safeco entered a 20-year naming rights agreement to name the Mariner’s newly built ballpark “Safeco Field.” The agreement was reportedly worth $40 million, giving the Mariners an annual average of about $2 million. Although Safeco was purchased by Liberty Mutual in 2008, the name “Safeco Field” remained on the ballpark until the agreement’s end in 2019. It was announced in December of 2018 that the Seattle Mariners will officially partner with T-Mobile for a 25 year term with a total naming rights value of $87.5 Million with an approximate annual value of $3.5 Million.
Minute Maid Park/Enron Field (2000-2030)
The naming rights agreement between the Houston Astros (“Astros”) and Enron Corporation (“Enron”) not only provides another example of a naming rights agreement at the time the Brewers and Miller entered their agreement, but offers a case study of how issues like bankruptcy can impact a long-term naming rights agreement. When the Astros began play at their new ballpark in 2000, they had reportedly entered a 30-year, $100 million agreement with local energy company Enron to name the park “Enron Field.” However, just two years later, Enron had filed bankruptcy, and the team entered a new agreement with Minute Maid to name the field “Minute Maid Park.” The new agreement was reported a 28-year, $178 million agreement that would give the Astros nearly $6.4 annually.
What is truly interesting about this agreement between the Astros and Enron is the legal implications and potential public backlash the Astros were forced to confront as a result of Enron’s bankruptcy. Enron’s bankruptcy was the largest in American history at its time, lead to thousands of jobs lost and millions in life savings being lost. Because Enron was a company based in the Houston area, the Astros were determined to rid themselves of any association with the controversial company. In early 2002, the team filed a motion in bankruptcy court seeking to get its naming rights back, and Astro’s president of business operations, Pam Gardner, stated: “[t]he Houston Astros have been materially and adversely affected by the negative public perception and media scrutiny resulting from Enron’s alleged bad business practices and bankruptcy.” Dean Bonham, an experienced naming rights consultant of Bonham/Wills & Associates, also fittingly addressed how the public perception effected the Astros, stating: “[i]f you have just lost your job and your life savings, or if someone in your family has, how are you going to feel about walking through a door with the Enron Field name on it?” Ultimately, the Astros were able to pay Enron $2.1 million to terminate the parties’ naming rights agreement, allowing the Astros to enter their current agreement with Coca Cola subsidiary, Minute Maid.
Comerica Field (2000-2030)
In 1998, the Detroit Tigers (“Tigers”) sold the naming rights to its newly built stadium to Comerica Bank. While Comerica Bank is not currently based in Detroit, the company was founded in Detroit in 1849, and has continued to build its footprint in the Detroit area. The 1998 agreement was reported at $66 million to be paid out between the years of 2000 to 2030, creating an expected annual average of $2.2 million.
Because this agreement came at time while the Tiger’s new stadium was under construction, it is another agreement that was likely influential in funding the construction of a new ballpark. The reported financing of Comerica Park presents a breakdown of 38% public funding, and 62% private financing contributed directly from Tiger’s owner Mike Ilitch. Like the public financing for Miller Park, Comerica Park’s construction required levying new taxes on the local area, including a 1% hotel tax, a 2% car rental tax, and funds from Indian Casino revenues in this case.
It should lastly be noted that Comerica Bank has recently utilized an extension to renew its naming rights to the Tiger’s home ballpark. While Comerica Bank’s naming rights to the stadium were not set to expire until December 31, 2029, the financial services company recently exercised a 5-year extension option to extend its naming rights through December 31, 3034. While financial terms of the agreement were not released, it seems quite interesting the company decided to exercise an extension option 10 years prior to the agreement’s expiration. Comerica’s use of its extension reaffirms the notion that the public can never really be certain what is worked into naming rights agreements, or what additional incentives may be inserted beyond basic financial terms.
Below is a chart of reported naming rights agreements provisions:
IV. Contemporary Naming Rights Agreements
While there were several other naming rights agreements that were made around the time the Brewers and Miller executed their agreement, it provides an interesting perspective to compare to some of the more recent agreements that have been finalized in MLB. Examining these agreements helps exemplify how the value of naming rights agreements has increased throughout the past couple decades, as well as helps speculate how valuable the new agreement between the Brewers and American Family Insurance could be. As previously noted, it should be remembered that the actual terms of these agreements are usually not released to public, and the numbers listed below are speculating what has been released by the media.
Truist Park (2020)
In November of 2013, the Atlanta Braves (“Braves”) announced that they would be leaving Turner Field. Turner Field had been the home of the Braves since the 1997 season. Sun Trust Park became the home of the Braves in 2017. The stadium is located approximately ten miles from downtown Atlanta in Cumberland, Cobb County, Georgia. The owner of the stadium is the Cobb-Marietta Coliseum and Exhibit Hall Authority, and has an approximate capacity of 41,084.  The stadium opened to its first regular season game on April 14, 2017. It is estimated that the stadium cost approximately $622 million to construct. Originally the Braves entered into a twenty-five year, approximately $10 million naming rights deal for the Braves with Sun Trust Bank. The stadium was renamed Truist Park in 2020 with the recent forming of Truist Financial Corporation. Truist was previously known as Branch Banking & Trust Company (BB&T), and changed its name after the completion of the acquisition of the Atlanta based Sun Trust Bank in December of 2019.
T-Mobile Park (2019-2044)
The Mariners and telecommunications company T-Mobile signed a 25-year naming rights agreement to name the Mariners home field “T-Mobile Park.” The agreement was announced in late-2018 as the Mariner’s original 20-year naming rights agreement with Safeco came to an end. Like most naming rights agreements, the exact financial terms of the T-Mobile agreement are unknown, and there has been much speculation as to the value of the agreement. While it was originally reported the agreement may be in the $6 million per year range, it has more recently been reported that the agreement gives the Mariners about $3.5 million per year. The length of the agreement (25 years) makes sense for both parties to the agreement, as the Mariners recently extended the lease to their home facility for 25 more years.
Oracle Park (2019-2039)
The Giants and software company Oracle Co. signed a 20-year naming rights agreement in January 2019. The agreement changed the Bay Area stadium’s name to Oracle Park after being named AT&T Park for the last 13 seasons. There has been tremendous speculation surrounding the financial terms of the agreement, with sources reporting the range being anywhere from $200 million to $350 million over 20 years. An interesting note accompanying this agreement is that AT&T’s naming rights were not set to expire until after the 2019 season, however, AT&T did not plan to renew its naming rights after the season, and allowed the Giants to end the agreement one year early. Whether any buy-out or incentive was provided to AT&T is unknown.
While the agreement is likely a more lucrative one on the spectrum of MLB naming rights agreements, the Giants seem to suggest the money will not be used to capture highly-paid free agents. Giants president Larry Baer has indicated there is a technological and innovation component to the agreement, as the team is based near Silicon Valley. The lucrative agreement allows the Giants to keep up with any changes in technology, and keep the franchise aligned with its community. This also makes sense to strike an agreement with a company like Oracle, considering it is a computer technology company based in the Bay Area, and has had the naming rights to the Golden State Warriors’ Oakland arena for the past several years before they moved to San Francisco.
Globe Life Field (2020-2048)
In August 2017, the Texas Rangers (“Rangers”) and Globe Life Insurance agreed to a 25-year extension to the existing naming rights agreement the parties have in place. The original agreement between the parties came in 2014, and was reportedly a 10-year agreement valued around $50 million to name the Ranger’s current ballpark “Globe Life Park,” However, with the Rangers constructing a new $1 billion stadium that is to open for the 2020 season, it makes sense that the parties would consider extending their agreement further. What makes this agreement interesting is that the financial terms that have been reported included the insurance company will pay $11 million annually to name the new ballpark “Globe Life Field.” This would make the agreement the second largest MLB naming rights agreement ever made, behind only the reported $20 million per year agreement made by the Mets and Citibank in 2009.
While most MLB stadiums have naming rights partnerships, several do not:
- Fenway Park | Boston Red Sox | 1912
- Wrigley Field | Chicago Cubs | 1914
- Dodger Stadium | Los Angeles Dodgers | 1962
- Angel Stadium | Los Angeles Angels | 1966
- Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum | Oakland A’s | 1966
- Kauffman Stadium Kansas City Royals 1973
- Oriole Park at Camden Yards | Baltimore Orioles | 1992
- Nationals Park | Washington Nationals | 2008
- Yankee Stadium | New York Yankees | 2009
- Marlins Park | Miami Marlins | 2012
“For some it is a matter of tradition outweighing any revenue naming rights while others are older ballparks that have had corporate partners in the past. Others, however, may have simply opened at a poor time economically for naming right deals.”
V. American Family Insurance and their Naming Rights Agreement with the Milwaukee Brewers
A new study indicates that the Milwaukee Brewers and Miller Park have had a $2.5 billion economic impact in Wisconsin over the past two decades, including $1.6 billion in direct spending.
“Being a ‘major league city’ makes a difference not just in civic pride, but also in terms of our regional attractiveness to employers and talent,” said Steve Baas, senior vice president of governmental affairs and public policy for MMAC. The study was conducted by Conventions, Sports and Leisure International for the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce. It found the state has collected over $605 million in taxes to pay for the ballpark, which has drawn nearly 3 million people on average to Milwaukee every year since 2001.
In January of 2019, the Brewers and American Family Insurance announced a 15-year naming rights agreement to replace the ballpark’s current name “Miller Park.” Considering American Family Insurance is based in Madison, Wisconsin, and the company is a prominent insurer of homes and automobiles in Wisconsin, it seems logical for the company to expand its presence in the State by purchasing naming rights to Milwaukee’s MLB stadium. However, Miller has been a staple in the area for decades, and the change in name may constitute a large adjustment for some residents, especially those unfamiliar with American Family Insurance.
In addition, it can be speculated that the company had to lucratively outbid large competitors like BMO Harris Bank, Harley Davidson, Northwestern Mutual, Foxconn, Potawatomi, and Kohl’s. The pool of potential bidders was likely analogous to those expected to be in consideration for the naming rights of the Milwaukee Bucks new arena. These potential bidders were examined in a May 2015 Sport$Biz article, titled “Naming Rights Could be Financing Gap Filler for New Bucks Arena.”
This section will introduce American Family Insurance by sharing some of its historical background and presence in the sports and entertainment industry, then give some speculation as to what could be expected from the recent agreement between the Brewers and the company.
American Family Insurance Background
American Family Insurance (the “Company”) is a Madison-based insurance company that is ranked 311th on the Fortune 500 list. The Company sells automobile, casualty, life, business, and farm/ranch insurance largely through its exclusive agents in 19 states. However, the company historically began as Farmers Mutual Automobile Insurance Company in 1927, selling only automobile insurance to its target market of those in the farming industry. The Company changed its name to American Family Insurance in 1963, and has since grown into the nation’s 13th largest property/casualty insurance group.
In the current decade, American Family Insurance has experienced a magnitude of growth financially. The Company has reported six consecutive years of growth since 2011, the year the Company elected Jack Salzwedel as its CEO, a native of DeForest, Wisconsin. In 2017, the Company reported assets of $24.2 billion, equity of $8.0 billion, and revenue of $9.3 billion. The Company’s overall growth is also exhibited through recent mergers with other insurance companies, such as its merger with Main Street American in 2018, which was influential in making American Family Insurance a $9 billion Company.
Sports and Entertainment Marketing
Throughout the last few years, American Family Insurance seems to have heavily expanded its marketing footprint in the sports and entertainment industry. While purchasing the naming rights to the Brewer’s home field is certainly their biggest sports marketing decision, it is important to note that the focus of their marketing seems to undoubtedly be centered on the Wisconsin region. A few of their notable marketing campaigns are outlined below.
One of American Family Insurance’s most notable marketing moves in recent years was the decision to become the official presenting sponsor of Milwaukee’s Summerfest. In January 2017, Milwaukee World Festival Inc. and American Family Insurance announced a 10-year partnership that would make the insurance company the first ever presenting sponsor of the festival. The partners also revealed plans to construct a new 23,000 seat amphitheater at Henry Maier Festival Park, which is to be named American Family Insurance Amphitheatre. While the specific financial terms of the agreement were not announced, the construction of the new amphitheater is expected to cost between $30 and $35 million dollars, and be completed for the 2020 summer festival.
Another marketing initiative the company has taken throughout the past few years is sponsoring the American Family Insurance Championship. This is a tournament on the PGA Champions Tour that began in 2016, and takes place annually in Madison, Wisconsin. The event is also co-hosted by Steve Stricker, a Wisconsin native and brand ambassador for American Family Insurance. The tournament has continued to grow in terms of financial results, raising $2,067,000 for charity in 2018, a 27% increase from the previous year. The local economic impact in the Madison area has also been quite substantial, which was expected to be around $15 million in 2018.
American Family Insurance has also promoted its brand by working with several professional athletes with ties to the state of Wisconsin. One of the most notable superstars to help market American Family Insurance was Russel Wilson (“Wilson”) in a 2014 Super Bowl ad. Not only is it likely Wilson targeted by the company because of his role as a starting quarterback, but because he has said he developed a relationship with American Family Insurance during his years playing for the Wisconsin Badgers. Wilson’s wife previously worked in the marketing department of American Family Insurance. The company has also worked closely with JJ Watt of the Houston Texas throughout previous years, who is a native of Madison, Wisconsin, and played his college football at the University of Wisconsin.
American Family Insurance has also expanded their footprint in the sports and entertainment industry through several other notable agreements. The company has a brand ambassador campaign, in which high-profile athletes and performers have previously partnered to embrace the brand, including Derek Jeter, Kevin Durant, John Legend, Kathy Ireland, and Jessie Vetter. The company also has sponsorship agreements with the Green Bay Packers, the Atlanta Falcons, and the Indianapolis Colts. Overall, it is evident American Family Insurance has worked rigorously to spread its footprint in the sports and entertainment market.
In addition to the sports and entertainment industry, American Family Insurance has continued to expand its reach in Wisconsin with other localized commitments. American Family recently announced that they would invest $20 million in the University of Wisconsin Madison’s data science initiatives.
American Family Insurance’s Milwaukee Office
In December of 2019 it was announced that American Family Insurance “will renovate the 110-year-old former Mandel Graphic Solutions plant on North Martin Luther King Jr. Drive for its downtown Milwaukee offices.”
[The building] will be home to a new multipurpose American Family office, with space for 400 employees in a variety of roles, including claims, high-tech and community partnerships.
The five-story Mandel building was constructed in 1909 for the Phoenix Hosiery company, and was among the four American Family finalist sites named in September by the Journal Sentinel.
American Family chose the Mandel building “as the best location to attract talent and collaborate with the community,” said Kari Grasee, vice president of business and workplace services, which oversees company facilities.
The building is in a developing business district, with easy access to public transportation, and the structure is solid with beautiful historic architectural character, Grasee said.
Milwaukee Brewers and American Family Insurance Naming Rights Agreement
In January of 2019, the Brewers and American Family Insurance signed a 15-year naming rights agreement, ending the original naming rights relationship between the Brewers and Miller. “The news of the American Family Insurance naming rights deal with the Brewers didn’t settle well with fans, but the company says it is not surprised.” “Brewers brew beer, Milwaukee brews beer, and Miller is a company with deep roots in Milwaukee.”
In response the Vice President of Communications for American Family Insurance, Jim Buchheim said the following:
I think what we saw, and to some extent what we continue to see, is just a lot of passion and emotion for the Brewers. And honestly it’s that passion, that emotion, that’s one of the reasons we were interested in pursuing the naming rights with the Brewers. When (the Brewers) first approached us, we saw an opportunity to better connect with a pretty large group of Milwaukee and Wisconsin residents who’ve got a great affinity for that organization and we wanted to be a part of that. We anticipated that not all that (fan) passion would work in our favor at the start and that there would be some negativity about the name change. Certainly there’s still a group of fans who would rather not see a change and have an affinity to Miller Park. I think there are some who never wanted to see the change from (Milwaukee) County Stadium. We need to have a really good process to determine the name so that it’s not five or six words long but it’s also one that truly gives us recognition for the type of company that we are.
It has been announced that on January 1, 2021, Miller Park will be renamed American Family Field. In the statement released by American Family Insurance, Chairman and Executive Officer Jack Salzwedel was quoted as saying:
The name American Family Field incorporates what we learned from fans, the Brewers and marketing research that included analysis of our brand and other sporting venue names. The name is short, simple and sweet with its alliteration of ‘Family’ and ‘Field.’ The words ‘American Family’ capture our brand and reflect the family-oriented atmosphere that our research showed fans clearly value in the ballpark.
American Family Field will officially be adopted as the new stadium name on January1, 2021. The logo can best be described as the “familiar “red roof” of the American Family Field logo is flipped to the gold of the Brewers color palette, and the word ‘Field’ — white lettering in front of a navy blue fill — adopts the Brewers’ serif font.”
“We are honored and grateful to be part of Milwaukee and Wisconsin – our home state for nearly 93 years. The American Family Field logo we unveil today is as much about the Brewers and their fans as it is about us, and that sentiment is reflected in the logo’s design,” said American Family President Bill Westrate.
“The logo for American Family Field continues our commitment to create a name and look for the ballpark that fans can embrace, and also highlights the partnership between the iconic brands of American Family Insurance and the Brewers,” said Sherina Smith, American Family marketing vice president.
The American Family Field logo features the distinctive rooflines of the ballpark and the American Family logo, which is changed from its traditional red to the yellow used by the Brewers in their logo and uniforms. “Our relationship with the Brewers – as well as the city of Milwaukee as a whole – is built on a spirit of partnership and collaboration, and we wanted the ballpark logo to show that. The logo showcases and celebrates both organizations,” Smith said.
Variations of the logo will appear most prominently at three locations: On the exterior side of the ballpark over the main entrance facing I-94, replacing the ballpark’s current featured sign; on top of the scoreboard; and on the major free-standing sign adjacent to I-94. The precise designs and dimensions at each location is being finalized and will be released later this year. 
The renaming of Miller Park is not without criticisms. Some of the most often criticism heard includes:
- MillerCoors was the perfect sponsor for this stadium.
- MillerCoors was the only sponsor for this stadium.
- It’s arguably the least intrusive sponsored stadium name in sports.
- Many people like beer; nobody likes insurance.
- It makes me wonder how bad the financials are at MillerCoors.
- Madison is not Milwaukee.
- For many, the name’s not going to stick.
The agreement, which is set to begin in 2021, and will run through the 2035 season. However, since the Brewers lease to the stadium ends in 2030, it can be assumed that the last 5 years of the agreement depend on an extension of the team’s lease to the stadium. In addition, the name of the Brewers spring training facility has already had its name changed to “American Family Fields of Phoenix,” which features $60 million in renovations for the 2019 season. While the financial terms of the agreement have not been released, reports have speculated that the agreement is in the range of $4 million.
There are several factors that suggest the agreement can be rightfully speculated in the $4 million range when considered holistically. First, and most obvious, is how the market for naming rights has clearly trended upward in the past decade. This has been briefly illustrated by comparison in the previous sections of this article that provide examples of historical and recent naming rights agreements. Factors influencing upward trend could be things like advances in game broadcasting, the popularity of baseball as a sport, technological advances allowing companies to innovatively display their name, or even just normal inflation.
Perhaps one of the most influential factors leading to an increased value in naming rights is the overall increase in franchise values in the MLB. This concept was thoroughly presented in a June 2018 Sport$Biz article, titled “Post-Script: Blast Off! Why Are MLB Franchise Values Skyrocketing at an Astounding Rate?” Recent years have seen the overall value of MLB franchises grow drastically, especially for large market teams like the New York Yankees, whose value hit the $4 billion mark in 2018. With the overall value of franchises on the incline, there is likely a positive correlation to the monetary value corporate entities are willing to pay to have their name featured on an MLB ballpark.
In April of 2020, Forbes issued updated information regarding the valuation of MLB teams. The top ten are:
- New York Yankees | $5B
- Los Angeles Dodgers | $3.4B
- Boston Red Sox | $3.3B
- Chicago Cubs | $3.2B
- San Francisco Giants | $3.1B
- New York Mets | $2.4B
- St. Louis Cardinals | $2.2B
- Philadelphia Phillies | $2.0B
- Los Angeles Angels | $1.975B
- Washington Nationals | $1.9B
Forbes, in an article entitled “What are Naming Rights Deals in Major League Baseball really Worth?,” valued naming rights based upon the value of media exposure. What follows is Forbes conclusions:
|Stadium||Team||Total News Media Stories||Estimated Exposure Value|
|Guaranteed Rate Field||Chicago White Sox||4,194||$7,043,564.37|
|T-Mobile Park||Seattle Mariners||5,503||$7,454,416.76|
|Comerica Park||Detroit Tigers||5,430||$8,295,964.09|
|Minute Maid Park||Houston Astros||5,554||$8,318,347.78|
|Globe Life Park in Arlington||Texas Rangers||5,542||$8,665,929.45|
|Chase Field||Arizona Diamondbacks||5,585||$8,930,744.67|
|SunTrust Park||Atlanta Braves||5,373||$8,961,311.87|
|Petco Park||San Diego Padres||6,508||$10,201,536.89|
|Great American Ball Park||Cincinnati Reds||6,298||$10,278,367.08|
|Oracle Park||San Francisco Giants||6,958||$10,686,708.32|
|Progressive Field||Cleveland Indians||6,992||$11,193,923.14|
|Tropicana Field||Tampa Bay Rays||7,179||$11,757,353.08|
|Busch Stadium||St. Louis Cardinals||7,777||$11,975,041.79|
|PNC Park||Pittsburg Pirates||8,441||$13,214,407.52|
|Target Field||Minnesota Twins||9,089||$14,233,595.18|
|Citizens Bank Field||Philadelphia Phillies||10,912||$17,776,808.71|
|Citi Field||New York Mets||12,643||$20,144,739.13|
|Miller Park||Milwaukee Brewers||15,396||$23,127,713.81|
“According to Data Sports Business Journal Resource Guide Live, existing naming rights deals averaged 23 years in length and $107.9 million in total value.” As to Miller Park, Jack Salzwedel, CEO of American Family Insurance, said: “This is a smart marketing investment for us. We do not have the mega-advertising budget of other large insurance companies. Our marketing philosophy is to pursue creative, authentic and inspiring opportunities that align with the principle of value. This is one of those opportunities.”
Moreover, the fact baseball has grown in the state of Wisconsin in recent years leads to speculation that the American Family Insurance agreement could be much more lucrative than the Brewer’s previous agreement with Miller. Much of this is contributed to the success of the Brewers, especially in the past year when the team nearly clinched a trip to the World Series. Recent reports have also stated the Brewers value rose 14% after its recent playoff run, increasing the teams value to $1.175 billion. Additionally, while the total attendance at Miller Park has overall trended upward throughout the past couple decades, the team’s highest annual attendance has come in 2008, 2011 and 2018 when the team has made playoff runs. Because the club has demonstrated a potential to be a strong contender for years to come, the value of the stadium’s naming rights should be positively impacted.
Overall, the naming rights agreement between the Brewers and American Family Insurance is likely quite lucrative compared to the 1996 agreement with Miller Brewing. There are several factors influencing this speculation, but one can simply assume that the bid must have appealed to the Brewers for the club part ways with its original corporate sponsor. However, Brewers fans can still take pride in the fact their team’s stadium exhibits the name of locally-based company that has worked diligently to spread their footprint in the Wisconsin area.
 Chris Morran, 20 Years Ago, Only 1 Baseball Stadium Had A Corporate Sponsor; Now All But 9 Do, Consumerist (Feb. 6, 2015), https://consumerist.com/2014/02/06/20-years-ago-only-1-baseball-stadium-had-a-corporate-sponsor-now-all-but-9-do/.
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