The Chicago White Sox recently announced that U.S. Cellular field will be renamed Guaranteed Rate field next year, and the name soon became a national punchline.
There is so much wrong with this decision, from the logo of the sponsor to the team itself.
After a very promising start, it looks like the White Sox will finish near the bottom of the division— again. Rick Hahn, the general manager of the team, said the team is “mired in mediocrity.” It’s clear to most fans that the team is in need of a revamp and a rebrand.
However, the team shouldn’t have made this new partnership. While at the end of the day it was a business decision — money talks — it was foolish to partner with Guaranteed Rate.
Why would a team want one of its main sponsors to be a company whose logo is a down arrow? Why would a team want to be associated with a mortgage company? It took five minutes for the internet to lose its mind at the expense of the Sox.
Baseball is not a get-rich-quick scheme. Baseball is a game that requires investment and patience. Look at how the Cubs are running away with their division lead right now. The Cubs acquired good players through minor league development. That isn’t the case for the Sox, whose future is mortgaged every year by signing players past their prime and missing out on young players who have high potential. The pairing with Guaranteed Rate couldn’t be more ironically perfect.
Here’s the biggest joke of them all: The Sox won’t even get additional money with the new contract. Guaranteed Rate simply bought out the original contract made with U.S. Cellular. You’re telling me that out of all the companies in the world, only Guaranteed Rate wanted to sponsor the stadium? There are only 30 Major League teams in the world. No one else would pay about $2 million per year to be associated with one of those teams?
The commercialization of sports teams and their venues is telling of the culture we live in, and I don’t think it is something we should be proud of. Places such as Soldier Field and Fenway Park stand out as historical landmarks and are idolized nearly as much as the teams that play inside them. KFC Yum! Center, home of the Louisville Cardinals, is not a name to brag about. Talking Stick Resort Arena, home of the Phoenix Mercury, is downright cringe-worthy. But given the context of the team, Guaranteed Rate Field might be the worst name in sports.
I’m not a PR major, so maybe I know nothing and shouldn’t be saying anything. But I’m pretty sure there isn’t a PR professional behind the U.S. Cellular Field name change, either.