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Heat naming rights still unresolved

Miami HeatMiami Heat naming rights at AmericanAirlines Arena is still unresolved, as Miami-Dade County officials have not been able to close a replacement deal, triggering a potential $2 million payment to the NBA franchise.

The naming-rights deal for the arena expired at the end of 2019, but the AmericanAirlines name remains on the facility. Miami-Dade County controls the naming rights to the facility but shares revenue with the team. Without a new sale of the naming rights, the county is on the hook for a $2 million payment to the team in 2020 and perhaps 2021. Cleveland’s Superlative Group has been working on a replacement deal since last year but could not finalize anything, and the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with a resulting recession, has not made the task any easier.

The irony is that the Heat and Miami-Dade County had an arrangement for the team to pay $2 million annually in exchange for managing naming rights. The new arrangement was a change pushed by Miami-Dade County officials. Part of the issue is that Miami-Dade County doesn’t have much to offer past a straightforward, somewhat old-fashioned naming rights deal, calling for a sponsor to hang their logo on the facility. When an arena manager like the Heat controls naming rights, they can put together a deal that calls for naming rights as well as in-facility promotions and naming rights for specific areas of the arena, such as a lounge or courtside seating.

Despite the poor economy, we still see naming-rights deals being struck. At one time TD Bank was rumored to be a potential partner, for example.

The original naming-rights agreement was struck with American Airlines prior to the venue’s opening in 1999, calling for a roughly $2.1 million annual payment as part of a 20-year sponsorship.

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