According to the Spanish newspaper El Confidencial, soccer giant Real Madrid is in talks with Bill Gates about a deal to grant Microsoft naming rights to its storied stadium, the Bernabéu.
Opened in 1947, the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu is named after the man who served as Real Madrid president for 35 years and helped transform the club into one of the dominant players in the world’s most popular sport. Since its inception, the Bernabéu has seen Real win 30 Spanish league championships and nine European titles.
Though doing so might anger longtime fans, selling naming rights to the Bernabéu would help Real Madrid fund a proposed renovation of the stadium that is expected to cost more than $US400 million. The club said in May that if it did sell naming rights, it would do so in a way that kept Santiago Bernaéu’s name beside that of a sponsor.
As it stands, Microsoft and Real Madrid already have a good working relationship, having collaborated recently on projects to bring software and athletic programs to impoverished youth in Latin America. For Microsoft, the move would burnish the company’s image as a pioneer and leader in the tech field and allow it to profit from the Real Madrid brand, which Forbes has ranked the most valuable in all of sports. The company already has a partial sponsorship of the home stadium of Seattle Sounders, a soccer team that plays on “the XBox Pitch at CenturyLink Field.”
Though selling naming rights to stadiums came into fashion in the U.S. in the mid-90s with Colorado’s Coors Field and Chicago’s United Center, the trend was slow to being taken up in European soccer. Though all major soccer teams have a sponsor on their uniforms, no team currently in La Liga, Spain’s top soccer league, plays in a stadium named in part for a company.
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