Twins to name new stadium Target Field

The retailer and the team agree to a 25-year, multimillion-dollar deal for naming rights.

Ever since the Minnesota Twins received public approval in 2006 for a new ballpark, team President Dave St. Peter has been fielding calls from companies wanting to talk about naming rights for the stadium.

On Monday, the Twins hit the bull's-eye when the team announced tentative agreement on a 25-year marketing deal with Target Corp. to call the 40,000-seat stadium Target Field.

While specific financial terms weren't disclosed, several sports analysts around the country estimated the deal could be worth $100 million or more over the 25 years, and one sports marketing analyst said it could be worth $8 million a year or more.

"We really focused on Target," St. Peter said Monday. "We really had only serious discussions with one company, and that was Target."

The $517 million stadium project, financed mainly with public money, will open in 2010.

The $8 million figure "would not seem extravagant," said Steven Korenblat, who helped Citibank negotiate a $20 million-a-year naming rights deal for the New York Mets' stadium, which opens next year. "It certainly is not, given the benchmark on the East Coast."

But other sports marketing observers said the Twins deal was more likely in the range of $5 million to $6 million a year.

"I tend to go toward the lower end ... given the small market, a slowing economy and the fact the Twins haven't won the World Series in a long time," said Brad Sarna of Absolutebrand, a consulting firm in Milwaukee. He said he would not be surprised if the deal were worth as little as $3 million a year.

Under terms of the team's deal with the state, the Twins will pay for the upkeep of the stadium. Selling the naming rights was a concession granted to the team to help offset the maintenance costs. The team said sale of the naming rights, therefore, is a private business transaction, and so the terms need not be made public.

Target audience

The agreement means Target -- which paid about $18 million in the early 1990s for the naming rights to the Target Center basketball arena where the NBA's Timberwolves play -- will have a dominant position in downtown Minneapolis.

"Between the baseball team and the basketball team and the whole corridor to downtown, Target has firmly entrenched themselves," said Jeff Knapple, a naming rights deals expert at Wasserman Media Group LLC in Los Angeles. He estimates the naming rights sold for $5 million to $6 million a year.

David M. Carter, executive director of the University of Southern California's Sports Business Institute, said it is unusual for a sponsor to have naming rights at two adjacent major venues.

Carter said the stadium deal suggests Target is seeking to make an even stronger connection to fans in its home market.

"It's further evidence of our commitment to the local community and providing community support," said Susan Kahn, a spokeswoman for Target. "This is in our back yard. This is an extra-special commitment to our hometown."

But Target, which operates about 1,650 stores in 47 states, is also constantly expanding. Most recently, it announced plans to open a permanent store in New York City.

Although Target is a household name in Minnesota, analysts said the deal is a good move by the company to extend its brand awareness.

"The point is not to improve your brand awareness in this market," said Jeff Klinefelter, a senior research analyst at Piper Jaffray who follows Target. "It is to drive your brand awareness nationally."

Klinefelter said Target spends about 2 percent of its annual sales on marketing, or roughly $1.2 billion a year.

Analysts said that in the long run the money spent on the naming rights would be well worth the national and international coverage Target Field will receive in coming years -- especially if the Twins make the playoffs or, as expected, host the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in 2014.

Other elements

Apart from naming rights, the team and Target will work on designing other aspects of the stadium, including what will be called Target Plaza, a pedestrian bridge and public gathering space connecting the ballpark to downtown Minneapolis, said Kevin Smith, a Twins spokesman.

In addition to naming rights for the ballpark and plaza, the Twins and Target will work to develop an array of marketing and promotional programs, Smith said.

The Minnesota Ballpark Authority, public owner of the park, is overseeing design, construction and operation of the stadium and plaza.

Dan Kenney, the Ballpark Authority's executive director, said the agency is pleased with the deal because it will help in the development of the area surrounding the park.

"We think Target Field is a good name," Kenney said Monday. "We're excited about Target's intentions."

Heron Marquez Estrada • 612-673-4280

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