Desperate times call for desperate measures – one might conclude. It turns out that a gambling operator could become the first naming rights holder for an NFL stadium as Barstool expressed serious interest in Buffalo Bills opportunity.
With new NFL season just days away, nothing seems certain. There is no league-wide policy of dealing with COVID-19 and teams are taking various approaches towards their matchday operations. Some are planning to allow thousands of supporters inside their stadia in hope of not losing out entirely on gameday revenue, while others remain reluctant and announce their games would be played with no crowd inside.
Buffalo Bills are part of the latter fraction, expecting to forego matchday revenue almost entirely. While their stadium is hardly among the league's top (in fact, it's among the ones most rumoured to be replaced soon), it still offers over 120 suites and over 8,250 club seats, which will likely remain empty throughout the 2020 NFL season.
To add another financial issue, in January the stadium's naming rights sponsor has asked to be released from his deal prematurely. Bills will thus enter the new campaign with an interim stadium name of Bills Stadium, until a new sponsor is found.
In these conditions a major change for the league overall can take place. Among those interested in naming rights for the stadium in Orchard Park is David Portnoy, creator of Barstool Sports. First launched as a sports banter website, the brand is now strongly associated with gambling. Barstool runs its own sportsbook and is co-owned by Penn National Gaming, operator of casinos listed on one of the best casino sites.
In terms of public image, such partnership would be both a precedent but also a great fit. Precedent because no brand associated directly with gambling has so far got involved in NFL naming rights. While the 2018 Supreme Court decision has opened doors to official casino partnerships (almost every NFL side now has its own official casino, some even plan opening betting lounges inside their stadia), so far the approach has been rather conservative.
But it's also a great fit because Portnoy and Barstool's brand is quite rowdy, not afraid to set a precedent, if for the sake of having fun alone. This in turn matches the image of Buffalo Bills fans, both famous and infamous for their actions and in recent years known widely under the umbrella term of Bills Mafia.
It's unclear how much a potential naming rights deal could be worth but one should not expect any records. The previous naming rights holder, Buffalo-based New Era company, was reportedly paying only some $5 million annually, in the lower margins of NFL partnerships.