By Mike Klis
The Denver Post
Posted: 08/10/2011 11:05:49 PM MDT
Updated: 08/11/2011 09:43:42 AM MDT
When the name Invesco Field at Mile High first became official, the likes of then-Mayor Wellington Webb, then-restaurateur John Hickenlooper and a certain daily newspaper reacted by putting their fingers in their ears. So how does Sports Authority Field at Mile High sound?
"We believe the public will embrace this in a huge way," said Mac Freeman, the Denver Broncos' senior vice president of business development.
Sports Authority, the Englewood-based sporting-goods company, is in negotiations with Invesco Ltd., the Broncos and the Metropolitan Football Stadium District to assume naming rights of the venue that has been home to Denver's NFL franchise since 2001. If the stadium district approves the deal during a public meeting Tuesday, Sports Authority will pay $150 million over the next 25 years for the right to have its name on the Broncos' stadium.
The Broncos would open their 2011 season against Oakland on Sept. 12 at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
Invesco Funds Group, a Denver- based mutual fund group, signed a 20-year, $120 million deal for naming rights that was set to expire in 2020. From those naming-rights revenues, 50 percent goes to the stadium district and 50 percent is allocated to the Broncos. That same split would be retained in the proposed deal with Sports Authority.
Invesco was hit hard by the downturn in tech and growth stocks soon after signing the naming-rights deal and folded operations into AIM, a related mutual fund group based in Houston, by 2004. The combined group, Invesco AIM, continues to renew the stadium lease, even as its Denver workforce dwindled to a handful of people. Last year, the Atlanta-based company changed its name back to Invesco.
All involved parties said Invesco was not looking to end its relationship with the Broncos. "Earlier this year, we were approached with an idea by Sports Authority that did seem like a compelling offer that was in line not http://extras.mnginteractive.com/liv...81011a_200.jpg Sports Authority chief marketing director Jeff Schumacher: "We don't look at this as a corporate sponsorship. We look at this as a Colorado sponsorship." (Denver Post file photo)
only from our point of view but it also seemed to be in the best interest of Broncos fans and the district," said Douglas Kidd, Invesco's managing director for corporate affairs.
One reason Invesco was willing to move on was that the company has changed its business model in recent years from selling directly to consumers, where advertising can pay dividends, to pitching to financial advisers, where signage has less impact.
Still, the name change would not be happening if not for Jeff Schumacher, Sports Authority's chief marketing director, who is determined to enhance the company's visibility.
A Broncos' sponsor for several years, Sports Authority has more than 30 stores and 1,000 employees in the state.
"We're the third-largest private company in Colorado, yet people don't know that our headquarters are in Colorado," Schumacher said. "We don't look at this as a corporate sponsorship. We look at this as a Colorado sponsorship." Sports Authority has 470 stores in 45 states. And it plans to expand by at least one by putting a retail store inside the Broncos' stadium.
Although stadium naming rights have exploded since Coors Brewing paid $15 million to the baseball stadium district authority and Rockies two decades ago, those deals have leveled off in recent years. The Dallas Cowboys, for instance, have yet to find a naming-rights sponsor for Cowboys Stadium.
What Sports Authority has going for it is that Invesco has http://extras.mnginteractive.com/liv...IUM~p1_200.JPG When the new facility replaced the old Mile High Stadium, Invesco signed a 20-year, $120 million deal for naming rights. (Craig F. Walker, Denver Post file )
already cushioned much of the blow from critics offended that the Broncos and stadium district "sold out" the tradition of the Mile High Stadium moniker.
The Broncos began as an AFL franchise in 1960, playing home games at the venue that was then known as Bears Stadium. It became Mile High Stadium in 1969, and the Broncos played there through the 2000 season.
It was while the Broncos were en route to their second consecutive Super Bowl in 1998 that metro-area taxpayers voted to extend the 0.1 percent sales tax used for Coors Field to also fund a new stadium for the Broncos. Invesco won the bidding process for the naming rights, but the company could not have fully realized what it signed up for. Hickenlooper and Webb were among the early critics, and The Denver Post initially refused to refer to the new stadium as "Invesco Field at Mile High."
Invesco initially was going to pay $160 million for naming rights, but that was when the stadium was simply going to be Invesco Field. Invesco agreed to add Mile High to the stadium name while lowering its comprehensive rights fee to $120 million.
"We embrace the Mile High name," Schumacher said. "We want people to know our city has an elevation a mile high."