Credit Unions: The New Player in Naming Rights

The naming rights industry has typically seen its world dominated by the same types of corporations again and again:  automotive corporations, telecommunications corporations, and the big banks, among others. The result is arenas and stadiums across the United States bearing household names that are recognized across the country, and the benefits for both parties involved in those naming rights deals are clear.  Recently, however, a new kind of business has stepped onto the scene and is taking the naming rights world by storm: Credit Unions.  A member-owned financial co-operative, these institutions are created by their members, operated by their members, and owned by their members, and recently, they have entered the naming rights market in a big way.

In 2017 alone, over 10 credit unions across the country signed tremendously lucrative naming rights agreements, and that number is only growing. So, why Credit Unions?  And why, as a Credit Union, would you look to potential naming rights opportunities when considering your next move? Credit Unions are intrinsically community oriented. They are based around ideas of a democratically elected ownership that profits its members. This appeals to many, and that is reflected by the growth that Credit Unions have seen across North America. Yet, Credit Unions must remain true to the beliefs that they are founded on amidst this growth, and naming rights opportunities grant them that opportunity.  By putting their name on arenas and stadiums attended by hundreds of thousands of people within their community every year, not only are Credit Unions increasing their visibility and awareness of their company exponentially, but naming rights deals also offer companies the ability to directly connect with attendees via multiple interactive platforms.  Such interaction builds the relationship with communities that Credit Unions both strive for and rely on.  As Jeff Sermon, CEO of Utah Community Credit Union and one of the main men driving the UCCU Center naming rights deal with the Utah Valley University states, “Our members go to school here, so serving UVU is one way of serving our members”. 

Further, naming rights opportunities open up an entirely new channel to expand Credit Unions’ reach to different generations, specifically Millennials.  This expanded reach can be seen in the partnerships struck between Credit Unions and collegiate arenas across the nation.  For instance, CFE Federal Credit Union Arena (CFE Arena), located on the University of Central Florida campus and home to the one of the largest student population in the nation, is a prime example of the effect that naming rights can have on a Credit Union.  Home to the UCF Knights, this 10,000 seats sports and entertainment arena has transformed the reach of the CFE Federal Credit Union.  As stated by Michael Ferreer, former director of marketing for CFEFCU, the effect of this naming rights partnership on CFEFCU was immense, “These branches acquired 629 new households, resulting in more than $1.5 million in deposits and $1.6 million in loans with an annual retention rate of over 87%... an important measurement for our efforts in targeting young members for lifelong relationships”. 

SECU Arena of Towson University saw a similar result for its naming rights partner, the State Employees Credit Union. Carmen Mirabile, former VP of Marketing stated, “As an organization, our commitment to our members is to ensure that we provide them with the best banking products and services.  We can only continue to do that by attracting new members.  This partnership significantly enhances our visibility, greatly improving the opportunity to do exactly that… With every event taking place and promoted at SECU arena, we build awareness and attention to our great organization”.

The benefits of naming rights partnerships for Credit Unions are clear, and BWA only sees this trend continuing to grow and expand in the future.  In an ever-competitive market, there are few better ways to establish a business within a community in a way that mutually benefits all partners involved.  Other financial institutions should recognize the steps that Credit Unions are taking to further their reach, and emulate it, if not to be left behind.