Bank pushback and sports stadiums

This week, TCF Bank announced it’s giving back the federal bailout money that it didn’t want in the first place.

Theirs is not the only “pushback” to the government money and the accompanying nosing around that politicians are doing.

On the Web site, The Biz of Baseball Pete Toms well captures the sentiment that sports marketing is the new “whipping boy” of the recession. The subject? Naming rights for stadiums.

As far as I know, TCF did not get much political grief for its deal with the new University of Minnesota Football stadium naming rights, for which it paid $35 million. But it appears to be one of the few that have escaped.

Two major banks (other than TCF) with homes in Minnesota are in the naming rights business, including those who have accepted bailout money, according to the Sports Business Journal.

Wells Fargo & Co.

$25.0 billion in bailout funds

Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa ($11.5). Wells Fargo Arena at Arizona State University ($5 million). Also has marketing deals with five MLB clubs; five NBA clubs; San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks; Minnesota Wild; multiple minor league teams; Western Athletic Conference; deals at approximately 15 colleges, including Arizona, Southern California and Texas

U.S. Bancorp

$6.6 billion in bailout money

Naming rights at U.S. Bank Arena in Pittsburgh ($3 million). U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati. Also sponsors PGA U.S. Bank Championship Milwaukee; Seattle Mariners; Minnesota Timberwolves; Utah Jazz; Denver Broncos; Minnesota Vikings; Big Ten and Pac-10 conferences; six college athletic programs

The pressure to pull back from sports marketing is affecting the already-questionable math used by proponents of publicly financed sports stadiums.

Less than one year ago, professional sports was anticipating a group of stadium naming rights deals which would command unprecedented dollars. The Mets deal remains in place (at least temporarily) but has generated vast amounts of negative attention for the sponsor. The Yankees deal collapsed. Interest in the naming rights for the Cowboys and Giants/Jets stadiums appears slight. On a smaller scale, the Washington Nationals will soon begin their second season of play in Nationals Park, still with no naming rights sponsor.

BofA sponsorship chief Ray Bednar was quoted in SBJ, “We may have seen a sea change in the acceptable way to develop and nurture and maintain and grow relationships using client B2B entertainment.”

Whether or not that change is temporary or permanent will have an enormous impact on professional sports.

It all adds up to increasingly unlikely sell for a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings, whose lease at the Metrodome expires in 2011, thanks to a lousy economy, the disappearance of naming rights money, and a Legislature that has little interest in asking taxpayers to pony up a dime for a new stadium.