Playing The Sports "Naming Rights" Game

World Series 2008
World Series 2008

It was the fourth inning and I was sitting at Tropicana Field for last night's World Series game when I decided to play the game "Does This Naming Rights Deal Work?"

This is how the game works. First, you figure out who the sponsor of the facility is. (Note: This is easy and is only part of the game).

Then, walk around the stadium and evaluate how that sponsor is doing within the stadium and then figure out how natural the fit is. Tropicana has a variety of brands and is owned by Pepsi. The first test is: Do they serve Tropicana juices at the stadium?

I could have gone that generic, but since there's a huge sweating orange in the outfield, my goal was to find Tropicana orange juice. After leaving my seat, the first concession I hit was a bar. I saw the Tropicana orange juice in the mini fridge on the back counter and asked if I could purchase it.

"I'm sorry," the bartender said. "We only use it to mix drinks."

At the next concession stand, I saw "TROPICANA JUICES $4" listed on the board. I asked the woman behind the counter named Melinda if I could have an orange juice. She furrowed her brow in confusion. "I don't think we have any," she said, after quickly glancing at the fridge from her register.

"No, there are a couple left," I said, feeling funny about the fact that I researched their stock before getting on line. After walking over to the fridge, Melinda discovered I was right and retrieved the juice from the fridge.

Good news for the folks at Pepsi , which owns Tropicana. You can, in fact, buy orange juice at Tropicana Field.

I know that this naming rights deal is more about getting people to think about Tropicana juices, and most specifically orange juice. But my next test is, can the company use the naming rights deal to get fans to try the sponsoring product or service BEFORE they leave the park?

As the money changed hands from mine to Melinda's, I figured I needed to do some quick research. "Do a lot of fans buy orange juice here," I asked her. "No, not really," Melinda said, with a chuckle.

When I got back to my seat, I took a couple swigs. Despite the fact that the team commissioned a company called DMX to make and spritz a scent called Citrus Burst that fans could immediately smell upon entering the stadium, a baseball game and orange juice do not mix.

What works with orange juice? A hot dog? No. A pretzel? No. Cracker Jacks? No.

My total sponsorship relevancy score for Tropicana is a B-minus, even though I was tempted to give them a C -- just for vitamin purposes.

They had the OJ, which they should have had and they had the scent, which was very interesting (though only the media were briefed on it, so 99 percent of the crowd probably didn't even notice). They also had that great 3-D orange lit up in neon lighting in the outfield, which is a fantastic sign.

But the game sampling doesn't make much sense. No one drinks orange juice at a game and the only attempt to make something that Tropicana could have capitalized on -- a frozen lemonade -- was unbranded.

Tropicana got the naming rights for a good value of $1.5 million a year, but the association to their main brand doesn't work and they could be doing more by being creative with some of their other juices.

A couple interesting notes on the orange juice itself. My 15.2 fluid ounces had 210 calories and 42 grams of sugar, which made me wonder if I should have searched for a diet orange juice.

Although the sponsorship made sense from a local standpoint -- orange juice is of course a big product of the state of Florida -- I was honestly surprised that my juice was made from concentrate from Florida or Brazil. Brazil? Here I was figuring I was helping the local economy and this piece of news shows up on my bottle.

And the weirdest thing? When looking through the ingredients, I noted an asterisk. I always thought that asteriks are for juicers, not for the juice itself. The asterisk led me to a sentence that informed me that the natural flavors that were in my 100 percent juice is "not found in regular orange juice."

What is that? Does that sound very natural to you?

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Questions? Comments?