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A new era begins as the Bills search for a new naming rights partner

Posted at 5:31 PM, Jul 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-16 17:53:06-04

ORCHARD PARK, NY (WKBW) — New Era Field, no more.

"This is a tough economic climate for both the Buffalo Bills and New Era," Niagara University Assistant Professor of Sports Management, Patrick Tutka, said. "They're trying to find an easy middle ground that makes both sides happy."

The Bills stadium is getting a new name after the local retail company asked to be released from its naming rights and sponsorship deal.

"Anyone in the business of producing and selling physical sports merchandise was in a pretty tough spot to begin with," Ben Fischer, Sports Business Journal staff writer said. "This is just pushing the lot over the edge."

New Era acquired the naming rights four years ago in a deal that was worth around $4M a year. That doesn't look like a lot of money when you compare it to the team's total season revenue of approximately $386M... but there's more to it.

"Every contract they've got is up for review and every sponsor is saying well maybe we should owe you $50K instead of $100K this month because you're not going to have fans in the stands or something like that," Fischer said. "The New Era contract was real contracted booked revenue and now they don't have it."

There's a lot of uncertainty as NFL teams try to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

Will there be a full NFL season? Will fans be allowed inside the stadium?

Fischer says the list of questions could make it difficult to find a new sponsor.

"Getting people to sign their name on a contract now and commit to additional spending for anything that's not payroll and critical accounts is a bit of an uphill battle," he said.

And when it comes to a new naming rights partner signing on, Tutka says it's more than just about the money. It's about the potential and future outlook.

"Often times there's an intent for a corporation to bounce and to use it as a naming point for a new place because that's when the prestige is there when you have a brand new building holding all of these super big events," Tutka explained. "It's one of the challenges that has caused them to not be able to sell for as much value as other teams have been able to receive."