By Don Muret, Staff Writer
The Univ. of California-Berkeley has signed mobile video game producer Kabam to a 15-year, $18M deal for field naming rights at its football stadium. The official name is now Kabam Field at California Memorial Stadium, the first college sports facility to be named for a video game company. In addition, the deal carries the highest value among field naming rights in college sports, topping the 25-year, $20M agreement for the Univ. of Maryland’s Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium. For Cal, the cash helps fill a funding shortfall tied to the school’s $321M renovation completed in ’12, said school COO & Deputy AD Solly Fulp. Kabam, a S.F.-based tech firm whose investors include Google, Intel, Warner Bros. and MGM, launched four years ago with 25 employees. Since that time, Kabam has grown to 650 employees and its revenues have increased to more than $350M annually from people paying for premium content tied to its fantasy games, including titles revolving around three films, “The Hobbit,” “The Godfather” and “The Fast and the Furious.”
SCHOOL TIES: A large number of Kabam employees are Cal graduates, including three of its four co-Founders — CEO Kevin Chou, GM Michael Li and Chief of Staff Holly Liu — as well as COO Chris Carvalho. Those deep ties to the university helped close the deal, said Premier Partnerships Managing Dir Jeff Marks, whose company helped sell the naming rights for the school. As a result, Kabam and Cal reached a deal four months after the two began talks at the start of football season, Marks said. Beginning next season, in-stadium activation will include Kabam logos placed on the 25-yard lines at Memorial Stadium, an interactive gaming area in the stadium, and digital messaging on a new LED video board at field level on the 50-yard line. As part of the deal, Kabam has committed to funding a scholarship and hiring Cal students as interns and having more of its execs speak on campus, Carvalho said. The official field logos will be unveiled during Cal’s spring game in March. Fulp said the school initially contacted more than 350 companies and had significant conversations with 50 firms before giving presentations to 10 finalists. Premier Dir of Business Development Jesse Ryback and VP/Marketing Services Stephanie Cheng also worked on the agreement. Seth Jacobs with CAA Sports consulted with Kabam on the agreement.