NEW ORLEANS -- Three years after moving to New Orleans with a deal to collect from the naming rights to the New Orleans Arena, the NBA's Hornets have
hired their own marketing firm to attract a buyer.
SMG, which manages the arena, has been unable to find a sponsor for the arena, as well as the Superdome, over the past few years.
"We felt it was time for us to get more involved and start a more aggressive campaign to get the naming rights sold," said Sam Russo, the team's
executive vice president of business.
Russo estimated it will take up to 18 months to find the Arena a sponsor.
The firm that will be used by the Hornets, The Bonham Group, has negotiated more than $1.3 billion in sponsorship contracts, and it negotiated naming
rights agreements for venues such as PETCO Park in San Diego, the Toyota Center in Houston, U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Ford Field in Detroit and
PNC Park in Pittsburgh.
"They have been very successful doing this from one end of the country to the other," Russo said. "They're the most likely group to be able to fit us
into this complex system of sponsorships."
SMG's Doug Thornton, the general manager of the Superdome and the Arena, said his group had spent an estimated $250,000 on two firms that
unsuccessfully tried to sell the naming rights to the arena and the Superdome.
Thornton said that until the state's talks with the Saints over the NFL team's future in New Orleans are settled, the Superdome will not get a
"All the Hornets are doing now is saying, 'We're going to spend the money, we're going to take the risk,' " Thornton said.
The inducement deal currently between the state and the Hornets has the team receiving $1.5 million every July 5, until the team sells the arena's
Once that happens, if the naming rights amount is for more than $2.5 million per year, the state is in the clear, and the Hornets keep the profits.
If the Hornets sell the naming rights in excess of $1.5 million but less than $2.5 million, the state has to pay the team the difference, so it
reaches a total of $2.5 million annually.