A year ago, Allegiant Air executives weren’t thinking about acquiring naming rights to a National Football League stadium in Las Vegas. But the chance to bring unprecedented awareness to the local travel company was too enticing to ignore.
After all, the NFL — far and away America’s most lucrative pro sports league — has just 32 franchises, meaning there are only so many stadium naming rights opportunities. And the benefits of the opportunity couldn’t be ignored: The NFL’s reach, domestically and internationally, is off the charts.
“If we didn’t step up and do it, someone else puts their name up there and (the opportunity) is gone,” Allegiant CEO Maury Gallagher said. “This is all about brand, brand, brand and how do you get your name out there faster with one expenditure than what we’re doing with the Raiders? That’s the strategic statement we’re making here.”
The partnership between the Raiders and the travel company was made official last week, making Allegiant Stadium the home for the Raiders — and UNLV football, and whatever other events are hosted at the nearly $1.9 billion, state-of-the-art domed stadium near the Strip.
Although terms weren’t disclosed, the agreement is likely in line with other NFL stadium naming rights deals. Mercedes-Benz reportedly pays $12 million annually over 30 years for the naming rights of the Atlanta Falcons stadium, which opened in 2017.
Regardless, it’s a gigantic step for Allegiant, a budget airline that has only been around for a little more than two decades.
“The No. 1 motivation for us to do this was to enhance our national brand and awareness,” Gallagher said. “We don’t distribute through traditional methods — we don’t use Expedia or Priceline. For us, more than 90% of our tickets get sold through our website. American, United and Delta are probably selling 30% (through their websites).”
Gaining instant access to fans
Some will argue the NFL owns Sundays in America — and internationally — each fall. Everyone is seemingly watching. When games are played at Allegiant Stadium, that’s instant — and invaluable — name recognition to enhance the company’s profile.
The NFL’s reach: 40 of the top 50 most-watched sports TV programs last year were NFL games, according to Sports Media Watch.
“A lot of people may not immediately think about NFL or sports marketing as being efficient, but it really is,” said Scott DeAngelo, Allegiant’s chief marketing officer. “Two-thirds of Allegiant customers — and those who haven’t flown us yet, but live in the markets we serve — are NFL fans. That’s more than double the national average. The proportion of NFL fans is much greater in small towns and mid-sized cities.”
Those mid-sized cities, DeAngelo said, represent Allegiant’s sweet spot. Of the approximately 120 U.S. cities serviced by Allegiant, many are small or mid-sized markets by airline standards.
“There are more Dallas Cowboys fans, as a proportion, in McAllen, Texas, than there are in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area,” DeAngelo said. “Our customers and our prospective customers are consuming the NFL in droves.
“Only 7% of NFL fans in America, however, have ever been to an NFL game,” he continued. “When you think about that, only a small fraction of NFL fans have access to get to the game. Now, think about what we and the Raiders can do together to provide access — promotions and packages — to fans.”
Company pride and recruitment
One person who was surprised to learn of the Allegiant deal was Larry Chavez, owner of Dreamstyle Remodeling, an Albuquerque-based company that operates in six states around New Mexico.
In 2017, Dreamstyle agreed to pay $10 million over 10 years for the naming rights to the University of New Mexico’s football stadium and basketball arena.
While that deal pales in comparison to the Allegiant deal with the Raiders, Chavez said it has been worth the money so far.
“We’ve seen the benefit,” Chavez said. “We’ve seen an increase in company name recognition and stature and prestige. Pride is high among our employees because of it and something we didn’t anticipate was that it’s been extremely effective in recruiting. We’re growing pretty rapidly and when someone Googles our company and they see this naming rights agreement, it makes a strong impression.”
Gallagher and DeAngelo said Allegiant employees — there are 1,500 in Las Vegas and about 4,100 company-wide — are excited about the deal.
“When I learned about the Allegiant deal, I thought, ‘Wow, those guys must be big and good,’” Chavez said. “I’m in Las Vegas quite a bit and I know who they are, but that news took my perception (of Allegiant) up several notches. That stadium will be extremely popular.”
The importance of staying local
Part of what made the Raiders/Allegiant marriage work was a bond that quickly developed between Gallagher and Raiders owner Mark Davis.
During the announcement ceremony at the stadium site last week, Davis said the fact that Allegiant is a Las Vegas company was also important.
“I think Maury Gallagher is somebody I’d like to work with for the next 30 years,” Davis said. “It’s just a good fit. A lot of people in the Raider Nation will have a direct flight into Las Vegas on the Raider airline.”
Before the negotiation process began, Gallagher said he knew the NFL was a big deal, but he didn’t understand just how big it is.
He said he’s looking forward to the day that a Super Bowl — Las Vegas is widely expected to get one sooner than later — is played at Allegiant Stadium.
“This is a big bite for Allegiant, but we’re going to grow into it,” Gallagher said. “We thought about it a lot, but these are moments in time. This stadium will be different than every other stadium in the world. In Las Vegas, we do entertainment better than anybody and this stadium will be the icing on the cake for this town.”