Cal Athletics sells Memorial Stadium field naming rights to video game company

The football field’s naming rights were purchased by Kabam in a deal that will bring in nearly $18 million.

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Cal Athletics announced Thursday that the naming rights to the football field in California Memorial Stadium had been bought by Kabam, a Bay Area-based video game company.

Starting in 2014, the contract between Cal Athletics and Kabam will last 15 years and bring in almost $18 million. The field will be renamed Kabam Field at California Memorial Stadium, while the name of the football stadium will not be affected.

Averaging $1.2 million per year, the Cal-Kabam partnership is the largest field-naming-rights partnership on an annual-payment basis in college athletics. Cal Athletics will receive $1 million in the first year, with a 2.5 percent escalation in earnings in subsequent years.

The sale of the naming rights to the field is a part of a diversified financing plan to fund the annual debt repayments for the renovated Memorial Stadium, which in total cost $321 million. Currently, the annual debt payment stands at $18.1 million. In fiscal year 2013, Cal raised $16.4 million.

“This agreement is part of a broader approach that athletics remains fiscally responsible,” said Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance John Wilton at a press conference Thursday afternoon. “We are constantly searching for unique and innovative opportunities to support the student-athletic experience at Berkeley.”

The agreement states that the field name will be placed on the two 25-yard lines of Kabam Field. Additionally, Kabam’s company logo will be placed on the 50-yard line above the Cal Athletics team bench. According to a Kabam representative at the press conference, the company’s current logo will not appear on the field, as it is being reworked.

The partnership between Cal and Kabam aims to go beyond the gridiron, as the video game company plans to create internship opportunities for UC Berkeley students and student-athletes, according to CEO Kevin Chou, a UC Berkeley alumnus who graduated in 2002 with a degree in business administration.

In addition to extending opportunities to the student body, Kabam plans to create a program in which 500 football tickets for U.S. Armed Services veterans and their families will be provided annually starting next fall.

“We were looking for a comprehensive partner that went beyond two logos,” said Associate Athletic Director Herb Benenson.

Founded in 2006 by Chou and two other UC Berkeley alumni, Kabam earned $180 million in revenue in 2012, creating mobile- and Web-based video games such as “The Hobbit: Armies of the Third Age.”

“We jumped at the opportunity to partner with Cal on naming the field at California Memorial Stadium and creating significant educational and innovation programs that benefit students, veterans and the community at large,” Chou said.

At the press conference, Kabam representatives emphasized their company’s strong connection to Cal Athletics and its hope to establish a lasting connection with UC Berkeley through the partnership.

“There was an amazing connection beyond the business aspects of it giving back to Cal and tying it in with our roots,” said Kabam Chief Operating Officer Chris Carvalho.