Cardinals’ stadium will be called State Farm Stadium under a new 18-year agreement between the Arizona Cardinals and State Farm.
Rob Schumacher, azcentral sports

The leasing of naming rights to sporting venues and events often leads to odd couplings. No one knows that better than Arizonans.

We’ve had an NFL stadium located in Glendale named after a college with Phoenix in its title (University of Phoenix).

We’ve had a bowl game named after a citrus company (Sunkist), a computer operating system (IBM OS2), tortilla chips (Tostitos) and a video game system (PlayStation). 

We have a baseball stadium named after banks (Bank One, Chase).

And we have baseball, basketball, hockey and concert venues named after casinos and/or tribes (Talking Stick, Gila River, Ak-Chin).

Maybe we’re growing numb to the name changes, which might be why Tuesday’s announcement that University of Phoenix Stadium would now be called State Farm Stadium didn’t seem to get much of a reaction other than, “What, no casino wanted to pony up?”

The Cardinals held a press conference/pep rally on Tuesday at the stadium, where crews already were changing signage. Team President Michael Bidwill did his best to convince everyone that the new business relationship with State Farm was a match made in heaven.

I’d like to think that’s why Bruno Mars’ “Locked out of Heaven” played right before Bidwill met with reporters.

“Never had much faith in love or miracles (miracles) uh!
Never wanna put my heart on the line, uh!
But swimming in your water is something spiritual (spiritual) uh!”

That’s a direct quote from Bruno. As for Michael, he didn’t have much new to say, other than the team has had a relationship with State Farm for more than a decade, that the two sides talked about a deal in the spring and the relationship heated up over the summer.

Bidwill said the Cardinals searched for a company that shared its “core values” and found it in State Farm. Both are focused on community, being a “good neighbor” and view the way they treat customers as ”stewardship” rather than “ownership,” Bidwill said.

No one smirked at this, probably because all in attendance were either employees of the team, the stadium, State Farm or journalists. I’ve never thought of NFL teams or insurance companies as stewards of anything but their own interests, but I’m cynical.

What wasn’t visible or detailed on Tuesday was the price tag on the new arrangement. That number is staying between State Farm and the Cardinals, at least for right now.

Per the original deal for the stadium, the Cardinals retain naming-rights revenue, which was about $7.7 million a year over the past 12 years. The new deal, which is for 18 years, likely is worth substantially more than the University of Phoenix one, but less than the $14 million to $16 million once forecasted by an industry expert.

The Cardinals’ reasoning for not revealing how much they’re receiving from State Farm apparently is that it’s crass to ask others how much money they make. But it seems reasonable to me that a football franchise, a steward, playing in a $455 million stadium the public helped fund, should reveal how much a naming-rights deal is worth.

State Farm is being a good neighbor elsewhere, too. Last week, it was announced it had reached a rights agreement to place the State Farm name on the renovated basketball arena in Atlanta. State Farm reportedly will pay around $200 million over 20 years there.

No matter what the Cardinals are making from this relationship, let’s hope they continue to plow millions back into the stadium and don’t tell us in the near future that the stadium is no longer up to league standards.

We’re already dealing with other franchises here on that.

So far, the Cardinals have been good stewards in that regard, spending millions on upgrading video screens, sound, wireless connectivity and amenities, in general all the stuff it takes to get us off our couches these days.

Bidwill has worked within league circles to secure a third Super Bowl in the stadium. The Final Four returns for a second time in 2024, and although the Fiesta Bowl isn’t in the national championship rotation through 2024, it’s reasonable to think it will host more title games.

And unlike University of Phoenix, State Farm probably won’t encounter financial difficulties over the 18-year agreement.

Insurance and gambling seem to be recession-proof businesses, which is good news for anyone in town seeking to lease their naming rights. Or a legal poker game.


Reach Somers at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @kentsomers. Hear Somers every Friday between 4 and 4:30 p.m. on The Drive with Jody Oehler on Fox Sports 910 AM.