This year when the Pittsburgh Penguins take the ice for the first game of the season as the defending Stanley Cup champions, they will do so at the PPG Paints Arena, and not the Consol Energy Center. Fear not Penguins fans, as this will be the very same building that the Penguins have called home for the last six seasons.
Only the name has changed, as the Pittsburgh-based PPG (Pittsburgh Plate Glass) acquired the naming rights from Consol Energy Inc. just six years into a 20-year deal originally signed before the arena’s inaugural season. PPG’s deal with the Penguins is another 20-year agreement, and the former will join fellow Pittsburgh-based companies Heinz and PNC Bank as the major stadium and arena sponsors for the city’s professional sports teams.
An Unexpected Change
With Consol Energy struggling because of low energy prices, they were forced to abandon their deal. They will remain as a minor sponsor, but PPG Paints will take over as the cream of the crop and the arena’s namesake.
PPG’s goal with this new agreement is to increase “top of mind” marketing and awareness for its already established brand. People arriving to or driving by the arena will see the PPG Paints logo. Fans watching from home will repeatedly hear PPG Paints referenced by the game’s commentators. Fans at the game will benefit from entertainment, giveaways, and other freebies sponsored by the company. As a result, PPG Paints will gain a new avenue to connect with potential consumers on a regular basis. If a deal makes sense, naming rights agreements and other sponsorships are an excellent way to promote brand awareness.
Awareness or Awkwardness?
However, naming rights agreements are not always well-received, as sports fans can be notoriously protective of their city’s franchises. Common issues can arise due to already existing perceptions of the sponsoring company, or due to the resulting name of the arena.
Heinz Field and PNC Park were both fairly well-received by football and baseball fans, respectively, as both brands were established and respected presences within the city. Both stadium names are also concise and clean, which helps when fans and commentators discuss the venues. When the H.J. Heinz Co. merged with Kraft Foods in 2015, there was some fear that the home of the Pittsburgh Steelers would be renamed “Kraft Heinz Field.” Luckily, Kraft Heinz saw the possible negative reaction by fans and opted to keep the existing name.
The Consol Energy Center was never widely accepted, even after six years. Fans tended to avoid the arena’s full name in favor of the shortened “Consol,” and some were turned off by an energy company being the one to hold the naming rights. PPG’s own takeover of the Penguins’ home has led to mixed reactions overall.
On one hand, PPG is a respected company with deep roots in the city, two traits that help to endear to fans in the Pittsburgh area. On the other hand, the decision to go with “PPG Paints Arena” instead of “PPG Arena” is not going over as well. While it’s certainly not the most hideously-named sports venue in the US (hello to Louisville’s KFC Yum! Center or Oakland’s former O.co Coliseum), it certainly doesn’t flow off the tongue. It’s extremely clunky and awkward.
While that may dampen enthusiasm initially, there is no doubt that PPG stands to benefit from this agreement overall. Though your average business can’t afford to sponsor an arena, any opportunity to get your name out there should be seized. In the world of marketing, brand awareness is of the utmost importance. Consumers won’t make use of you if they don’t know you exist.