Kansas City’s NWSL team announced a ten-year agreement last week making railway giant CPKC the naming rights partner for its under-construction stadium for an undisclosed price.
Typically carrying much higher price tags than official sponsor packages, the ability of venue title deals to deliver return rightfully comes under scrutiny whenever a new partnership is unveiled. In the case of the Kansas City Current and CPKC, a number of elements point to the deal’s potential to earn positive results for its corporate partner.
As with many naming rights sponsorships, this is a hometown deal. The company has its U.S. headquarters in Kansas City.
But adding to the local relevance factor is the fact that the name CPKC has existed only for six months, the product of Canadian Pacific’s $31 billion acquisition of Kansas City Southern. That transaction created the only railway to extend from Canada through the U.S. and into Mexico.
With the new company’s corporate headquarters in Calgary, some view the move as the loss of a local company to foreign ownership. Naming rights to an important new public space should help to reaffirm and strengthen CPKC’s commitment to the Kansas City region, its home for 136 years.
Moreover, the acquisition has faced broader opposition in parts of the U.S., with many saying the federal Surface Transportation Board dismissed safety concerns regarding adding more freight trains to already busy tracks when it quickly approved the merger earlier this year.
While sponsorship should not be intended to divert attention from critical issues, it does shine a positive light on a company’s investment in its communities and its commitment to more than just its bottom line.
That a company in the railway’s position would choose to put its name on a purpose-built stadium for women’s pro sports also is significant.
Too many partnerships in women’s sports have been done in recent years because “it’s the right thing to do” rather than being based on a strong belief they can achieve meaningful business results.
CPKC Stadium does not appear to fit that mold, with the company needing to accomplish much more than show support for a “cause,” as demonstrated by 1) its decade-long commitment, 2) the inclusion of an outdoor gathering space to be called CPKC Plaza and 3) involvement in the Current’s community initiatives.
With longtime Los Angeles Lakers sponsorship executive Allison Howard as president of the Current, it will be interesting to watch this nontraditional partnership develop.