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September 12, 2022

AFCU and Real Salt Lake expand partnership for stadium naming rights

America First Credit Union has been a partner of Real Salt Lake since the club was established in 2005.

By Stu Robarts

America First Credit Union (AFCU), the financial institution that has been a partner of US Major League Soccer’s (MLS) Real Salt Lake since the club was established in 2005, has taken on naming rights for its home stadium.

Formerly known as the Rio Tinto Stadium, the venue in Sandy, Utah, is now known commercially as the America First Field.

Making the official announcement yesterday (September 11), Real Salt Lake president John Kimball said: “Since our inaugural game back in 2005, America First Credit Union has supported Real Salt Lake’s connection with this community, offering our amazing fans numerous in-stadium, grassroots, and digital initiatives.

This partnership has grown immensely over our 18 seasons, and today’s unveiling of the America First Field signage and nomenclature propels the partnership to an entirely new level. Both Real Salt Lake and America First Credit Union share many tenets, including an ambitious vision of, commitment to, and innovation for our collective community.

“The depth, breadth, and term of this naming rights deal for America First Field is exemplary of that partnership, and we look forward to further deepening our jointly held roots across not only the great state of Utah but throughout the Intermountain West.”

Thayne Shaffer, president and chief executive of AFCU, added: “We’re elated to expand our relationship with Real Salt Lake and Major League Soccer by having our name on this elite sports and entertainment venue, and by offering the exclusive RSL-branded credit card and debit card. This partnership will provide value to our members and help us continue to invest in our community and in organizations that support individuals, families, and businesses as they work toward their personal and financial goals.”

Through the expanded partnership, AFCU will benefit from digital and traditional branding at the stadium, activations during Real Salt Lake matches, affiliations with the Real Monarchs team of the new MLS Next Pro league, and exposure at other events.

It will continue to work with the club on local community initiatives and will remain a presenting sponsor of various Real Salt Lake and Real Monarchs digital properties, as well as youth camps and clinics.

Aside from its naming rights deal, AFCU sits as a second-tier royal partner of Real Salt Lake with Ford, University of Utah Health, and Zions Bank. LifeVantage is the club’s top-tier jersey partner.

Jacob Kemp, analyst at GlobalData Sport, commented: “Real Salt Lake’s deal with America First is reported to be worth $5 million a season over a 15-year partnership. It is worth over three times as much as that previous deal with Rio Tinto, highlighting the increased price of the stadium naming rights market in the states. With so many American sports franchises opening and announcing plans for new stadiums, there is an immediate appeal for brands to be involved in the market.

“In MLS, all but three of the 28 competing teams play at venues with naming right partners – Chicago Fire, New York City FC, and Vancouver Whitecaps. This new deal in Utah brings the total annual value of these naming rights deals to $83.52 million. AFCU become the seventh brand within the financial services to be active in this way in the MLS, making it the most visible and influential sector in the MLS. The other major sector present in this way is the automotive sector with five active deals.

“The American sports market is a much bigger and more commercial hive of activity than what can be seen in European sport. Reasons for this come from newer stadiums being regular additions in North America where teams are less attached to historical former stadiums (and their names). The greater commercial activity in North America is another obvious reason for this, while it also comes back to the greater return in investment in North America, with many stadiums playing home to multiple franchises across different sports.

“The lack of prime partnership opportunities in North American sports is another typical reason for the greater buzz around stadium naming rights, as there are limited other opportunities in other high-profile sports leagues on the continent. This is less of a case in the MLS, where clubs are now allowed to play with primary front-of-shirt and sleeve partners but remains the case in other leagues such as the NFL, where brand logo visibility on kits is limited to the exclusive league-wide kit supplier.”

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