Stadium naming may have shifted in recent years to promoting corporate trade names, but in earlier decades is largely traced to the family names of company founders.
The record for the highest amount paid for naming rights belongs to Scotiabank Arena. On August 29, 2017, a 20-year/$800 Million (CAD) sponsorship deal was reached between Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment and Canada's Bank of Nova Scotia to rename Toronto's Air Canada Centre. The home of the NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs and NBA's Toronto Raptors became known as Scotiabank Arena on July 1, 2018.
Prior to the Scotiabank Arena deal, the record belonged to Citi Field (opened in 2009) and Barclays Center (opened in 2012), both located in New York City, US. Each garnered deals of $20 million (USD) per year for at least 20 years.
The New Meadowlands Stadium, shared home of the New York Giants and New York Jets in East Rutherford, New Jersey, US., was expected to eclipse both deals, with experts estimating it would value $25–30 million annually. It ultimately fell short of that benchmark, with MetLife Stadium earning $17 million annually from its naming rights deal with MetLife.
Occasionally, the purchaser of a stadium's naming rights may choose to donate those rights to an outside organization, typically one to which it is closely related. Probably the most notable example of this is Friends Arena, a major stadium in Stockholm. The facility was originally known as Swedbank Arena, but in 2012 that company donated those rights to the Friends Foundation, an organization seeking to combat school bullying that is heavily sponsored by Swedbank. More recently, the Kentucky Farm Bureau, an organization promoting the interests of Kentucky farmers that is best known to the non-farming public for its insurance business, acquired the naming rights to the University of Kentucky's new baseball park in 2018. The Farm Bureau in turn donated those naming rights to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, naming the venue Kentucky Proud Park. The sponsored name is the brand used by said state agency in its marketing campaign for agricultural products produced in that state.
In the United States
Naming rights in United States may have been traced back to 1912 with the opening of Fenway Park in Boston. The stadium's owner had owned a realty company called "Fenway Realty" (itself named for a nearby parkland), so the promotional value of the naming has been considered. Despite this, it is more widely believed to have begun in 1926 when William Wrigley, the chewing gum magnate and owner of the Chicago Cubs, named his team's stadium "Wrigley Field." In 1953, Anheuser-Busch head and St. Louis Cardinals owner August Busch, Jr. proposed renaming Sportsman's Park, occupied by the Cardinals, "Budweiser Stadium". When this idea was rejected by Ford Frick, the Commissioner of Baseball at that time, Anheuser-Busch then proposed the title "Busch Stadium" after one of the company's founders. The name was readily approved, and Anheuser-Busch subsequently released a new product called "Busch Bavarian Beer" (now known as Busch Beer). The name would later be shifted to the Busch Memorial Stadium in 1966, shortened in the 1970s to "Busch Stadium" and remained the stadium's name until it closed in 2005. By that time, Major League Baseball's policy had changed – with Coors Field in Denver and Miller Park in Milwaukee going up in that span – and Anheuser-Busch (who retained the naming rights after selling the team) was able to use the same name for the Cardinals' new stadium which opened on April 4, 2006. Foxboro Stadium, the home of the New England Patriots between 1970 and 2001, was an early example of a team selling naming rights to a company that did not own it, naming the stadium Schaefer Stadium after the beer company from its building until 1983.
The public reaction to this practice is mixed. Naming rights sold to new venues have largely been accepted, especially if the buyer is well-established and has strong local connections to the area, such as the cases of Rich Stadium (now New Era Field) in the Buffalo suburb of Orchard Park, Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, and Coors Field in Denver. Selling the naming rights to an already-existing venue has been notably less successful, as in the attempt to rename Candlestick Park in San Francisco to 3Com Park. The general public (and some media outlets) continued to call the facility what it had been known as for over three decades–i.e. Candlestick Park. After the agreement with 3Com expired, the rights were resold to Monster Cable, and the stadium was renamed Monster Park. San Francisco voters responded by passing an initiative (Proposition H) in the November 2004 elections that essentially stipulated the name must revert to Candlestick Park once the contract with Monster expired in 2008. The initiative proved largely ceremonial, however, and it was overturned by the passage of Proposition C in 2009 in response to desperate economic times. The naming rights to the park were never resold and the stadium closed in 2014.
Outside the United States
Sports stadiums with naming rights deals are not limited to the United States. "Named" stadiums can be found in countries including Australia, Japan, China, Finland, Canada, Israel and Germany, where 8 of the 10 largest football stadiums have their naming rights sold to corporate sponsors. The practice is widening in the United Kingdom; for instance the current stadium of Bolton Wanderers is the University of Bolton Stadium (after 17 years as Reebok Stadium and 4 as Macron Stadium) and 's stadium (opened for the 2006/2007 season) is the Emirates Stadium, their previous ground being Highbury Stadium. In cricket, the most famous example is The Oval, home of Surrey County Cricket Club. It has had several sponsors over the years, and is currently known as "The Kia Oval", having originally been known as the "Kennington Oval", the district of London in which it is.