TEXT OF INTERVIEW
Lisa Napoli: Someday soon, if your kid has to go to the hospital in Columbus, Ohio, you could feel like you’re stepping into a commercial. The insurance company Nationwide is getting its name on the marquee of the hospital for a $50 million donation. Abercrombie and Fitch doled out $10 million and gets the emergency room named for it. And the Limited Too will see its name on the lobby after making a $5 million donation.
Now usually, this kind of sponsorship is something you see in sports. Business of sports commentator Diana Nyad says it’s causing some issues there, too.
Diana Nyad: The Cubs fans are, you know, they’re proud. They haven’t won the World Series in 94 years*, so they’ve got to hang on to something. And they just don’t want the name of Wrigley Field changed. And evidently, a recent survey said that 72 percent of the season ticket holders — 72 percent — said “We will just leave those seats empty this year, we won’t go to one game, if they change that Wrigley Field name.” So they’re up in arms about it and they’re protesting.
Napoli: I don’t necessarily believe that people are just not gonna show up at the games, but obviously there’s precedent for it in the Chicago area, what’s going on.
Nyad: Yeah, I mean you know, great Comiskey Park, they sold out and they’re now U.S. Cellular Field. So you would think, you know, how can you get more corporate sounding than that? And the White Sox fans, they did, you know they weren’t happy in the beginning either, but they’re showing up, they’re going to the field. So I think you’re right, the Cubs fans will go. But you know, what’s so ironic about it is you look back and really, the first corporate name ever put on a stadium — was Wrigley Field! It was Wrigley chewing gum company. But these fans today don’t think of it that way, it’s just their beloved Wrigley Field.
Napoli: Well, the reality is, as we’re talking about, you need the money, the corporate backing to get these projects built. But there are still some places that are so sacred. Like Yankee Stadium.
Nyad: Oh yeah. I mean, yeah you know, they call that the cathedral of baseball. And when the baseball players start wearing, you know, Budweiser across their hats and on their sleeves, the Yankees no doubt will remain corporate-free. Although within Yankee Stadium, they’re selling rights to several different areas within Yankee Stadium. I mean Fenway, Fenway in Boston is the best example of that, and now Yankee Stadium is taking that up. Fenway remains, just called the park that we always know. But inside, they have 10 different corporate areas, and the newest one is called Coca-Cola Corner. So there are 410 new seats with picnic tables, $75 a piece, which is about twice what the going rate of a ticket is. So there are sectioned . . . off areas within Fenway Park to the tune of about $20 million a year.
Napoli: So back to Sam Zell. Is he saying that he’s got to do this? He’s got no choice?
Nyad: Sam Zell, of the Cubs, is just right in the face of his fans. He says, look — it’s my money, and if I’ve got to raise $200 million, you know how I’m gonna do it? We’re not gonna be called Wrigley Field anymore. We’re gonna be called whatever.
Napoli: “Whatever.” Haha. Whatever pays the highest bid. Thank you Diana.
Nyad: Thank you.
Napoli: That’s business of sports commentator Diana Nyad. In Los Angeles, I’m Lisa Napoli. Have a great weekend.
*CORRECTION — The Chicago Cubs haven’t won a World Series in 100 years.
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