Finance

Finance start-up SoFi strikes deal to put its name on new LA stadium for the Rams and Chargers

Key Points
  • The eight-year-old start-up, which began with student loan refinancing, is buying the exclusive naming rights to the Los Angeles football stadium that’s set to open next summer.
  • The two-decade “SoFi Stadium” deal includes a partnership with the Rams and Chargers, who will both play home games at the Inglewood, California arena.
  • There’s a long history of financial services companies buying stadium naming rights. But it’s rare for a young, venture capital-backed, private company to have its name on a major sports arena.
VIDEO17:5117:51
SoFi CEO on why the start-up bought naming rights to new LA stadium

Financial technology start-up Social Finance is putting its name on the most expensive NFL stadium ever built.

The company announced a 20-year deal on Sunday to call the new Los Angeles football compound "SoFi Stadium." The 3-million-square-foot arena, which will be home to both the Rams and the Chargers, is set to open next summer.

The San Francisco-based company will become an official partner of both LA football teams, as well as a partner of the performance venue and surrounding entertainment district. SoFi did not disclose how much it paid for the naming rights, but Venues Now and Fox Business, which reported earlier this year that a deal was in discussion, said it was a $400 million price tag.

"This is a giant leap toward achieving our company's mission of helping people get their money right by reaching our members where they are," said Anthony Noto, SoFi CEO and a former CFO of the NFL, in a press release. "This partnership is the perfect opportunity to drive awareness and trust in the SoFi brand as we continue to grow and reach members on a national level."

VIDEO12:1312:13
LA Rams chief operation officer on stadium naming rights deal with SoFi

It's common for financial services companies to buy stadium naming rights: Bank of America, J.P. Morgan Chase, CitiGroup and Barclays all have their brands on U.S. sports marquees. But it is rare for a young, venture-capital-backed, private company to put its name on a major sports arena. SoFi will be the only Silicon Valley start-up in the NFL stadium ranks.

The Inglewood, California stadium has gained attention for its size -- and its price. Los Angeles Rams owner and real estate mogul Stan Kroenke is financing the stadium as a part of his 298-acre sports and entertainment district. The project is expected to cost just under $5 billion, more than double the average cost for a new NFL stadium. The new Raiders stadium, for example, was estimated to cost just under $2 billion.

"It was critical for us to find a tech-focused partner who is on the cutting edge and genuinely understands the needs of all of our constituents and who challenges us to think in creative ways to make every visitor to SoFi Stadium and Hollywood Park feel special and at home," Kroenke said in the press release.

The indoor-outdoor facility will host Super Bowl LVI in 2022, the College Football National Championship game in 2023, and the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 2028 Olympic Games.

SoFi is already well known in the financial technology world, but the new stadium deal will likely put it on the map as a mainstream brand. Its marketing budget has exceeded $200 million in previous years, and the stadium deal would likely be a part of a larger effort to gain name recognition.

SoFi started in 2011 with millennial student-loan refinancing. Since then, it has expanded to personal and mortgage loans, mortgage refinances and wealth management services. SoFi has been on a product-launching spree this year. It announced cryptocurrency trading through a partnership with Coinbase, zero-fee SoFi branded exchange traded funds, and said it plans to debut a credit card later this year. It also rolled out SoFi Money — a cash account with 2.00% APY.

While the start-up offers a suite of traditional banking services, it's not a bank. SoFi partners with WSFS Bank, which handles the federally regulated lending and deposit side. The set up is common among fintech start-ups who don't have bank charters, and instead focus on building apps and platforms for digitally savvy consumers.

Earlier this year, SoFi closed a $500 million funding round led by Qatar Investment Authority that brought the company's valuation to $4.8 billion. To date, it has raised $2.4 billion from investors including Peter Thiel and SoftBank, according to PitchBook. SoftBank, the Japanese holding company founded and run by billionaire Masayoshi Son, has made headlines in recent weeks for its investments in controversial real estate company WeWork. That start-up has seen its $47 billion valuation challenged as it heads toward an IPO.

Noto, Twitter's former chief operating officer and a former managing director at Goldman Sachs, took over as CEO of SoFi in March 2018. He replaced SoFi founder Mike Cagney, who was ousted amid allegations of sexual harassment.

Noto said earlier this year that going public is "not a priority" in 2019. But long-term, he said an IPO remains on the roadmap.