Before Minnesota United turned the first shovels for the construction of its new stadium — before the team was even officially a part of Major League Soccer — team owner William McGuire reached out to Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America to be the official stadium naming partner.
McGuire recognized early that there would be additional benefits, besides financial, by partnering with the Allianz name and its association with some of the biggest names in global soccer. The St. Paul stadium will be the eighth bearing the Allianz name.
Allianz Life’s German parent company Allianz SE already has established naming deals with the Munich home of FC Bayern, the Turin, Italy, home of Juventus Football Club, plus soccer or rugby stadiums in Nice, France, Sydney, São Paulo, London and Vienna.
With Allianz’s ties with some of the best soccer clubs in the world, the possibilities exist for international preseason games or hosting international exhibition games.
Julia Gutz Moller, who led the negotiations on Allianz’s end, said it was interesting how the talks progressed with the team’s progress.
“We talked about the changing face of sports in the U.S., we talked a lot about the changing face of our community, we talked a lot about diversity, inclusion,” said Gutz Moller, who has recently been named assistant vice president for Allianz Field. “It turned into a really great story to take to our executive leadership.”
Gutz Moller had to present the naming proposal for the local field to her German bosses, but said the ultimate naming-rights decision was local.
“The real approval and investment and support had to come from Allianz Life based here in the Twin Cities. This is an Allianz Life investment,” Gutz Moller said.
Allianz SE, a global financial services provider, employs 142,000 people in 80 countries, including 2,200 employees at Allianz Life. Almost all of the Allianz Life employees are in Golden Valley.
Being brought in early in the process helped Allianz with the decision, Gutz Moller said.
Once local officials saw details of the proposed stadium, including its sustainable features, they realized the benefits it could have for its local name recognition and employee, customer and community engagement, Gutz Moller said.
“It wasn’t that hard a sales pitch,” she said.
Neither Allianz nor Minnesota United would disclose the dollar amount for the 12-year partnership, which runs through the end of 2028.
But the largest stadium naming-rights deals can be decades long and valued in the millions.
In June 2015, U.S. Bank signed a 20-year stadium naming-rights deal some estimated at $220 million on the $1.1 billion downtown Minneapolis stadium for the Minnesota Vikings football team.
In 2005, Wayzata-based TCF Financial agreed to a 26-year, $35 million sponsorship agreement with the University of Minnesota to support Gophers athletics and the construction of TCF Bank Stadium. The bank amended that deal last year, investing another $8 million in part to support the University’s Athlete’s Village.
Victor Matheson, a sports economist and professor at College of the Holy Cross, said there are enough deals out there now to come up with a pretty good estimate on what they are worth based on local area populations, league popularity and general attendance at similar venues.
“There is almost no doubt, that Allianz paid more than just a token amount for those naming rights,” said Matheson, a former Major League Soccer referee who received his doctorate from the University of Minnesota.
When he was at the U, he frequently refereed games of the Minnesota Thunder, the predecessor to Minnesota United.
“If it is similar to other naming deals in cities of a similar size to Minneapolis its probably about $2 million per year,” he said. “It would not be unusual for that to be about a $25 million deal overall.”
Matheson thinks that Allianz is in a rare position to have its name on stadiums around the world.
“The marketing advantages of having your name on a couple stadiums when they are in completely different parts of the world is a little better, for example, than having your name on two big facilities in the same town,” he said.
The stadium naming deal may help Allianz Life with its marketing efforts, but it’s harder to pin down what it means for the company’s revenue, said Kim Sovell, a University of St. Thomas adjunct faculty member who is teaching sports marketing this semester.
Naming deals provide an indirect return on investment, she said.
“When you are talking about naming rights, what is the return on investment? I don’t think you can literally have an exact return on investment,” Sovell said.
“From a marketing perspective, this type of branding isn’t meant necessarily to convince people to buy your product, what it’s meant to do is to start planting that seed of understanding: what Allianz is, how do you say Allianz and maybe how Allianz can work its way into your life with their family of insurance products?” Sovell said.