Bengals sell stadium name rights to Paycor: Why only two NFL stadiums remain without corporate sponsor

When the Bengals unveiled their new stadium in 2000, the name was revealed to be Paul Brown Stadium, named for the founder of the team. On Tuesday, the team announced that the end of an era had arrived.

The Bengals announced the stadium would be renamed to Paycor Stadium as Paycor HCM, a Cincinnati-based human capital management company, had expanded its partnership with the team to include stadium naming rights.

"Through a strategic partnership with our hometown team, the Cincinnati Bengals, we are beyond thrilled to introduce Paycor Stadium to the world," Paycor CEO Raul Villar Jr. announced through the Bengals. "As Paycor continues to grow and reach customers throughout the U.S., our mission of empowering leaders to build winning teams perfectly aligns with the defending AFC Champions. As longtime fans, this is a big point of employee pride and we are honored to support our local team and build on the legacy of Paul Brown."

There are now only two NFL stadiums remaining without a naming rights deal signed with a company: Green Bay's Lambeau Field and Chicago's Soldier Field. Here's a look at why teams, including now the Bengals, have signed stadium naming rights deals in recent years.

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Why NFL teams sign naming rights deals

It's all about the money. Having the naming rights on a stadium means plenty for both the company purchasing the rights and the owners of the stadium.

According to Forbes, SoFi is paying $30 million per year over the next 20 years to have the rights to the Rams' and Chargers' stadium in Los Angeles. Allegiant Airlines is paying $25 million per year in Las Vegas.

Not every naming rights deal brings in that much money, but they do serve as an additional source of revenue for teams. That money can help pay for stadium building costs or renovations, add room for payroll, or just line the pockets of owners.

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Why the Bengals have a new stadium name

Cincinnati is in the national spotlight for the first time in a long time after reaching Super Bowl 56 behind 2020 first overall pick Joe Burrow and a young, exciting core. Ownership clearly wants to make an effort to keep this team in contention for years to come.

The Bengals have essentially been a family business since their existence. Paul Brown founded the team, and remained the team's owner and president until he died in 1991. His son, Mike Brown, succeeded him as the team's owner and president. His daughter, Katie Blackburn, is the team's executive vice president and her husband, Troy Blackburn, is the vice president. Their two daughters also work in the team's front office.

But since the Brown family does not have any other major business interests on the side, Mike Brown has not always had the most financial flexibility to pay for on-field talent. Pro Football Network ranked him as the 30th richest owner in the NFL, ahead of only Raiders' Mark Davis and the Packers' lack of an official owner (they are owned by a number of shareholders). His net worth was listed at $925 million.

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Selling the stadium naming rights gives the Bengals a major boost of income they can use as they continue to build an indoor practice facility and eye potential contract extensions for players like Burrow, wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase, wide receiver Tee Higgins and others. Stadium naming rights can often bring in massive amounts of money to a team, and with a 16-year deal, there should be a steady stream of income for the team moving forward.

"This is a move that I think my father would have agreed to. He was always for what is best for the football team," Mike Brown said in the release. "This partnership allows the Bengals to continue to compete at the highest level in the NFL and exemplifies our long-term commitment to the community."

Will the Packers or Bears rename their stadium?

With the Packers, it's unlikely in the near future. With the Bears, it's a bit more likely.

The Packers are owned by the public, and receive plenty of funding. Back in 2015, team president Mark Murphy said during a shareholders meeting that the naming rights to Lambeau Field, named for the team's founder and long-time coach Curly Lambeau, would "never" be sold.

"We will not sell the naming rights to the stadium. ... We will never do that. It will always be Lambeau Field," Murphy had said.

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The Bears, however, are a different story. Soldier Field, named for soldiers who died during World War I, is likely to be going through some major renovations soon. The city of Chicago recently unveiled three proposals to renovate the facility with the focus to make it a domed stadium that could be better suited for year-round use.

The proposals come at a cost, however. The city announced the costs could range between $900 million and $2.2 billion. Among the potential measures listed that could provide new amenities included "dramatically expand the opportunity for major sponsorships and naming rights." The idea for the naming rights would likely include keeping "Soldier Field", but attaching a corporate sponsor within the name, perhaps along the lines of the Broncos' Empower Field at Mile High. 

The idea of renaming the stadium has not been met positively, however. Former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn introduced citizen ordinance to prevent the naming rights from being sold.

"Overwhelmingly, the people of Chicago will say 'no' to selling the naming rights of Soldier Field or attaching the name of Soldier Field to 'Commonwealth Edison Park at Soldier Field' or 'Amazon Stadium at Soldier Field.' It's a sacrilege to do that," Quinn said, according to ABC7 Chicago.

"The people of Chicago don't want their war memorial attached to a corporate name for money. It's just not right. We're Chicago. And we're Soldier Field. We're not Jacksonville. There's no tasteful way of attaching a corporate name ... to a war memorial. It's a desecration."

Author(s)
Edward Sutelan is a content producer at The Sporting News.
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