Now that Austin FC has a jersey sponsor, we’ve turned our sights to guessing the stadium sponsor. We expect the club to announce which company will win the inaugural naming rights later this year.
A stadium naming rights deal is immensely lucrative for a professional sports team. A club can bank millions of dollars guaranteed for a decade or more. In fact, according to a Sports Business Journal story, Austin FC has already turned down a 10-year, $35 million offer.
It’s a daunting task trying to think of an Austin FC stadium partner—a company on the world’s stage, which also has a local or regional presence in Texas.
Before we get to our picks, let’s talk about how we got there. (We drank some beer and took this very seriously.)
You can see from this sample of recent MLS expansion clubs and Texas teams, stadium deals have been dominated by companies in the finance or automotive industries. It certainly influenced our picks, as you’ll see.
New clubs FC Cincinnati, Inter Miami, and Nashville SC aren’t shown because they don’t have a sponsor deal yet, or they’re in a temporary stadium.
Also in our selection process, we eliminated businesses that had existing stadium partnerships with other venues nearby (sorry AT&T and Dell).
Enough of the chit-chat, let’s get to our picks:
1. Whole Foods Market
Even before it was gobbled up by Amazon, this grocery retailer was a Fortune 500 super star. Now operating as a subsidiary, the Whole Foods brand shows no signs of going away. They embody the spirit of Austin as well as anything. Natural, organic, healthy, active—these are words that describe both the grocery retailer and the city, making it the top option on our list. Plus, our mascot is a tree and our color is green—seriously, can you think of a better match?
Just down I-35 in San Antonio stands the headquarters of another Fortune 500 behemoth, USAA. Pulling down revenue of $31 billion annually, a multi-million dollar sponsorship deal for USAA is a mere drop in the bucket. With the company’s identity rooted in serving military families, you may think that’s where the path diverges from Austin. Not so fast. Camp Mabry is right behind San Antonio’s Fort Sam Houston as one of the oldest military installations in TX. More recently, the U.S. Army set up its newest command (Army Futures Command) in downtown Austin in 2018. Throw in the fact that financial companies are a magnet to stadium deals, and you might just see that USAA eagle perched on the roof of El Tree field.
3. Frost Bank
Frost Bank Tower already dominates downtown ATX with its “owl” building, so why not dominate Austin’s second downtown with Frost Bank Stadium. Headquartered an hour away in San Antonio, the company is one of the biggest banks in the U.S. (p.s., we’ve already mentioned financial companies affinity for stadiums). C’mon, how could you not want Frost when your logo is a tree?
VRBO/HomeAway is one of those Austin feel good stories that hit the big time. A tech company that revolutionized an industry, it’s known by travelers worldwide for its vacation rentals. With a significant presence right down the street at the Domain, the company also has the financial muscle to pull off a stadium deal—it’s owned by multi-billion dollar Expedia Group. We also happen to think the trippy VRBO logo would look amazing on a stadium.
5. Charles Schwab Corp.
Another Fortune 500 financial services company on our list, except this one has about 3,000 employees right up the street on Burnet Rd. Talk about close ties. So close in fact, Charles Schwab and Austin FC can be connected Kevin Bacon-style to one man, Mayor Steve Adler. He helped both organizations land in Austin. In addition, Charles Schwab recently announced it’s moving the entire HQ to Texas from California, and they’re ready to splash some cash to be a part of the community. My money is on this financial company to headline Austin FC stadium.
6. Apple Inc.
Besides Austin FC stadium, there’s another huge construction project that will be completed in 2021. It’s the $1 billion Apple campus in North Austin—located only 5 miles away from the stadium site. When it’s fully staffed, Apple will be the largest private employer in Austin. So yeah, they’re investing big time in Austin. What better way to put a bow on it than to have the iconic apple on top of the stadium roof. I for one would welcome our Apple overlords.
The most popular job searching site would be a strong brand to add to Austin FC stadium. It’s recognizable, it’s tech, and the company is loaded. Besides, wouldn’t Indeed want iPads at the stadium so Away team visitors (who undoubtedly will move here) could just apply for jobs at the game? Bonus: Indeed’s HQ is literally across the street from the stadium, so staff could view a match from their offices. How’s that for local?
8. National Instruments
Unlike new school tech bros swarming to Austin, NI (formerly National Instruments) was born and bred in the ATX. Founded in 1976, the company has grown to a whopping $1.3 billion in annual revenue. Maybe not as flashy as other companies, they’ve certainly withstood the ups and downs of their industry and quietly thrived in Austin. Best part is that they’re just a 2 mile drive on Evil Mopac to Austin FC stadium.
9. Tesla, Inc.
Elon Musk has been coy about Texas lately and we may know why. Rumors abound about Telsa considering Texas for its next Giga factory. Their Cybertruck has an image problem that could be fixed if it was built in the Lone Star state. Also, knowing Elon’s style he would love to stick it to the Texas state government by slapping a big ol’ Tesla logo on the stadium roof just to troll them for banning the sale of his cars here. Don’t be surprised if those 1,000 parking spaces at that stadium are all reserved for electric cars.
Academy Sports+Outdoors, Grande Communications, HEB