Labels That Stick

Firms find gold in naming rights

By Scot Crocker
November 2019

Some of Sacramento’s major assets have recently been christened with new names. SAFE Credit Union is putting its name on the Convention Center, currently under renovation. Golden 1 Credit Union put its brand on the Downtown arena. Sutter Heath is replacing Raley’s as the logo on the River Cats’ baseball stadium in West Sacramento.

When an organization buys long-term naming rights, it makes a commitment to the future. The purchase of naming rights is a business decision, but also a strategic move to build community support.

SAFE Credit Union’s partnership with the city is a 25-year commitment. The reason behind the partnership, according to SAFE leadership, is to help Sacramento propel its Downtown into a dynamic business and cultural center for the 21st century. The new name will be the SAFE Credit Union Convention and Performing Arts District.

“We saw this as an opportunity to partner with the city and build a relationship that would help the city but also be a benefit to the credit union,” says SAFE CEO and president Dave Roughton. “It’s a phenomenal opportunity for us, allows us to grow our membership and promote some of our programs focused on financial health and wellness.”

SAFE joins other business and civic organizations in supporting the $340 million project to transform the Convention Center, Community Center Theater and Memorial Auditorium into contemporary landmarks, representing the highest caliber of business, tourism, arts and entertainment.

“As a nonprofit, we have a mandate to help the community,” Roughton says. “As we do our part, others benefit. A rising tide lifts all boats.”

Roughton is excited about what the naming rights mean to his 230,000 members and more than 700 employees who will take pride in a remodeled civic amenity.

SAFE Credit Union has been in business since 1940. More than 80 percent of its members reside in the Sacramento region, so the partnership makes sense.

“We are very focused on our members, and that drives the decisions we make,” Roughton says. “In some ways, SAFE has been under the radar and the best-kept secret in Sacramento. This will help give us visibility.”
Another big naming rights deal involved the Downtown arena, Golden 1 Center. The credit union had the same goals as SAFE: It saw the arena as a partnership and opportunity to serve members and raise its profile.

“The visibility associated with our partnership in Golden 1 Center gives us the chance to introduce and share the benefits of credit union membership across California,” says Golden 1 senior vice president and chief marketing officer Doug Aguiar. “Our experience has been that when people learn about the benefits of credit union membership, they join. New membership growth allows us to provide better services to all our members. Our investment in Golden 1 Center is not only about our name on the building. It is an investment in our community.”


The arena represents the first Golden 1 naming rights partnership. Aguiar says, “This facility has been and will continue to be a catalyst to transform Sacramento into the next great American city.”

The arena has transformed lower K Street. More than a dozen bars and restaurants have opened. More are planned, plus entertainment—a movie theater, bowling alley and other attractions.

In its first 15 months, Golden 1 Center sold out 87 concerts, events and games. This year, the concert industry trade publication Pollstar ranked Golden 1 Center ninth in the nation for ticket sales. From Nov. 22, 2018, to Feb. 20, 2019, Golden 1 Center sold more than 150,000 tickets.

From a marketing perspective, Golden 1 members enjoy exclusive benefits, including discounted tickets and merchandise, and Member Mondays that feature behind-the-scenes tours, post-game free throws and more.

Other organizations are looking at corporate naming rights to generate revenue and community partnerships. One nonprofit, Sacramento Theatre Company, is launching a campaign to sell naming rights at 15th and H streets. While the Broadway at Music Circus complex will keep its name as the Wells Fargo Pavilion, the facility’s other stages can be named for individuals seeking a legacy or companies looking for exposure.

“With the number of people who attend productions and the exposure we can offer, naming our stages and other assets presents an unbelievable opportunity,” says Wendy Phoenix, Sacramento Theatre Company development director. “We are just getting started, but we have hopes to create great partnerships that are mutually beneficial.”

Scot Crocker can be reached at Follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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