By QUENTIN HARDY
The University of California, Berkeley, may be enduring one of the worst football seasons in its history, but it’s still “game on” – at least on the yard markers, anyway.
Cal, as the university is known, has announced that Kabam, a video game maker, has been awarded naming rights to the field at California Memorial Stadium. Starting in 2014, the playing area will be known as Kabam Field for the next 15 years, at a cost to the mobile games maker of $18 million.
It is a first of a kind deal for the university, and possibly the first time a gaming company has put its name on a college field.
It’s not bad publicity, either, particularly if Cal’s fortunes improve from its current record of 1-11. Kabam is well-known to gamers, but is a private firm with little public profile. It will get its name on the two 25-yard lines at Cal, and signage on the 50-yard line.
It is not by any means the first time a company has won naming rights to a field or a stadium. BB&T Field at Wake Forest University, for example, is named for a nearby bank. Boone Pickens Stadium at Oklahoma State is named for the tycoon. The Carrier Dome at Syracuse University honors the maker of heating and air conditioning equipment.
On the professional side, of course, such naming has been popular since at least 1926, when chewing gum magnate William Wrigley, who also owned the Chicago Cubs, honored the field with his own name. Mr. Wrigley didn’t have to pay, but most of the time companies pay a great deal for naming rights. Citibank gives the New York Mets $21 million a year to associate itself with the baseball team.
Kabam, which makes “Kingdoms of Camelot” and “The Hobbit: Armies of the Third Age,” but no football games, will also be establishing a scholarship program, library donations, internships, as well as executive exchanges, an “innovation lab” for developing projects, and an interactive gaming zone at the stadium.
Kevin Chou, Kabam’s co-founder and chief executive, is a Cal alumnus, as are two of the other four co-founders. The idea appears not to have sprung from them, however; Cal hired Premier Partnerships, a sports advisory firm, to secure the rights.