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Action Replay: Naming Ceremonies

You may well have thought that the Zambian football team won the Africa Cup of Nations back in February. But in fact it was the Orange Africa Cup of Nations, since this is one of the increasing number of international sporting competitions that have adopted sponsorship to the extent of incorporating a multi-national company into their name.

It is, however, mostly domestic competitions and stadiums that have attracted sponsors’ names. Football’s Carling Cup has had several, such as the Milk Cup when it was sponsored by the Milk Marketing Board (something scarcely credible now).  It had started life as the simple League Cup.Rugby union has the Aviva Premiership, rugby league the Stobart Super League, and cricket the Clydesdale Bank 40. Some mileage is got from the fact that it’s the FA Cup with Budweiser, rather than the Budweiser FA Cup, as if that made a big difference. Alcohol, banking and insurance seem to be popular sources of sponsorship.

The trend to new stadiums in recent years has led to sponsors’ names being commonly used to label the new ground, such as the Etihad and the Emirates. Sometimes existing stadiums have been renamed, if only temporarily: for a few years, York City’s ground rejoiced in the name of KitKat Crescent, under a deal with Nestlé. Newcastle United have played at St James’ Park since 1892, but last year the owners decided that this was not ‘commercially attractive’ (St James himself not having very deep pockets presumably) and so renamed it the Sports Direct Arena after the company run by the club’s owner. This is only a temporary move, mind, pending the identification of a long-term sponsor.

Clearly sport is just part of the increasing importance of the global brand in modern-day capitalism.