How Do Companies Get Naming Rights Over Public Spaces?

Jul 24, 2019

Just about every public venue in Milwaukee is named after a company. The Brewers play at Miller Park (soon to be American Family Insurance Stadium), the Bucks play at the Fiserv Forum, and just down the street audiences attend performances at the Miller High Life Theatre.

For Miller Park and Fiserv Forum, the teams were given power over the naming rights.
Credit Courtesy of Milwaukee Magazine

All of these spaces are publicly owned or operated. So, why and how does a company get to put its name on one of these spaces? Well, these deals are fairly complicated and unique to each space. For Miller Park and Fiserv Forum, the teams were given power over the naming rights. 

"The state legislation did allow the team to get the revenue from the naming rights," says Larry Sandler. He's a Milwaukee-based writer whose article on naming rights is featured in this month's Milwaukee Magazine

Sandler says that varies based on venue. In some cases, like the UWM Panther Arena and Miller High Life Theatre, money from naming rights goes directly to the district ("a tax-supported entity"). In the case of the baseball stadium and basketball arena, the naming rights revenue is intended to offset private contributions, particularly from team owners. 

"There are public dollars that are going to building and maintaining the spaces in both cases ... However, in both of those cases there also are private contributions and so you could think of the naming rights revenue as offsetting the private contribution," Sandler explains.