Vodafone lines up stadium naming rights deal with West Ham as it eyes a return to sports sponsorship in the UK

If the deal goes ahead West Ham's stadium will be named after Vodafone from the start of the next football season.

Vodafone is close to agreeing a £20m stadium naming rights deal for West Ham United’s London Olympic Stadium.

The telecoms giant is understood to have been in talks with the owners of the former Olympic Stadium, the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) and Newham Council, for several months and is now close to finalising a six-year deal worth around £3.3m a year.

If the deal goes ahead it would mark something of a return to major sports sponsorship deals for Vodafone in the UK. The company ended its seven-year title sponsorship of the McLaren Formula One team in 2013. This followed on from an end to its sponsorship of the English cricket team in 2010 and its decision not to renew its shirt sponsorship with Manchester United in 2006.

Since then the brand has channeled more of its sponsorship investments into music having agreed partnerships with the likes of the Capital Summertime Ball which it says will allow it to reach more young people and families.

Commenting on the stadium naming rights deal, Joanna Porter, managing partner of strategy and insight at HSE Cake, said: "EE and Wembley and The O2 have shown that stadia and telcom partnerships can work well and be a brilliant showcase for the product and the brand.

"It will come down to Vodafone's ambition: is this a major move to use the stadium as a hub for brand-led entertainment? If so, it could be a genuinely interesting addition to an albeit crowded market."

Initially West Ham are unlikely to see any of the money from the deal due to the terms of its lease agreement which states that the Premier League club is entitled to 40% of any naming rights deal over the value of £4m a year.

However, according to reports in the Telegraph, the proposed contract will increase the annual value from £3.3m to something over £4m, at which point West Ham would see a direct financial benefit from the deal, helping to offset the cost of its £2.5m annual rent for the 60,000 seater venue.

Vodafone’s potential involvement follows on from trouble process since West Ham moved into the stadium at the begin of the season. In April last year, the LLDC were in advanced talks with the Mahindra Group, an Indian technology giant and car maker, over a £6m a year naming rights deal, however the conglomerate collapsed last year.

The new stadium has also been marred by several instances of violence during West Ham matches, and has been widely criticised by the club’s fans who are unhappy with the distance between the seats and the pitch.

Despite the turmoil, the venue was recently named Stadium of the Year for 2016 by architectural experts.

Both Vodafone and the LLDC have refused to comment on the discussions.

Tony Connelly

I cover media, marketing and sponsorship news within the sports industry. This includes breaking news as well as writing feature pieces with insights from experts in the sports marketing world.

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