LOVING LA: The plethora of premium spaces at BMO Stadium are gold for a naming rights sponsor, an LAFC exec says. (VenuesNow Staff)

New Roof Canopy Signage Going Up This Week

A massive crane was at work this week replacing signage at LAFC’s home stadium after a naming rights deal with BMO bank, reported to be one of MLS’s richest agreements.

Terms of the deal announced last month were not disclosed, but multiple reports put it around $100 million for 10 years.

The Montreal, Canada financial institution, which replaces Banc of California as the naming-rights holder, is already deeply embedded in pro sports and particularly MLS. Over the past 10 years it’s had partnerships Toronto FC, FC Montréal and the Vancouver Whitecaps.

BMO recently merged with Bank of the West and is looking to expand its presence in the Los Angeles market.

“It coincided very well with their merger,” said Larry Freedman, co-president and chief business officer for LAFC and BMO Stadium. “They’re taking over a significant bank — a $16 billion transaction. There are 1,500 branches that are going to be rebranded with a significant number of those in the state of California, including Los Angeles and BMO is not a brand that had a physical presence in the western U.S.”

LAFC/BMO Stadium co-president and chief business officer Larry Freedman (Courtesy team)

The previous deal at the 22,000-capacity home of current MLS champion LAFC and NWSL Angel City FC, which opened in 2018 in the Exposition Park area, roughly where the Los Angeles Sports Arena once stood, was for reportedly $100 million over 15 years.

The agreement comes nearly three years after the team announced it was terminating its deal with Banc of California, which signed naming rights in 2016 in a transaction brokered by Legends. The bank later agreed to pay about $20 million to terminate the contract, but the name remained in the interim.

On Wednesday, workers were placing the BMO name atop the stadium canopy.

“Last week the signage on the sides of the exterior of our roof changed. When we had the U.S. Men’s National Team playing Croatia last week, as you approached the building on the sides you did see ‘BMO Stadium,’ and as we speak, we’ve got a portion of the field covered and there’s an enormous crane on the field with a very long arm reaching up to the rooftop.”

According to Freedman, things moved fast once discussions began  and this time LAFC negotiated the deal in-house.

“We got connected by some folks who knew some folks and it happened very quickly,” he said. “The conversations started at the tail end of last season (which concluded with LAFC winning the title on its home field). It coincided very well with their merger with Bank of the West.”

Asked if winning the MLS Cup played a part in sealing the deal, Freedman said it had already been agreed to, subject to regulatory approvals on BMO’s acquisition of Bank of the West. The merger occurred just prior to the playoffs.

“They were in the building for two of the three playoff matches, including the Cup,” Freedman said. “It certainly makes people feel better about what they did if nothing else.”

BMO Stadium has hosted major events such as the 2021 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target, the 2022 MLS Cup and numerous high-profile concerts and festivals.

“We were looking for a partner and we had certain entitlements and assets and marketing prowess to bring to the table and they were on the cusp of finalizing a transaction that could use a little boost with name recognition and branding and at the same time they are an organization that has a decades-long commitment to the game of soccer,” Freedman said. “They understand MLS, they understand soccer, sports partnerships and they are very focused on the community, all of which jibes very well with what we are about and the brand we’ve built.”

Freedman said the stadium provides strong branding and awareness and its event lineup offers 360-degree exposure to the diverse demographics of the Los Angeles market.

Upcoming concerts include RBD, Fall Out Boy, Blink 182 and Marco Antonio Solis.

“We’ve had Guns N Roses, Santana, Swedish House Mafia,” Freedman said. “The stadium itself provides a great opportunity to reach the entire community.”

Factor in opportunities to provide hospitality and entertainment, whether it’s to reward employees or provide a great experience for existing or prospective clients, and it’s a potent mix, he said.

“We like to talk about using our stadium as weapon in a competitive marketplace,” Freedman said. “Whether that’s to recruit and retain employees, maintain and build relationships with customers through shared experience, or to do the same with prospective partners, that is what the stadium can provide.

The stadium also has digital assets on the Harbor Freeway that extends south of downtown Los Angeles.

“For a brand that is entering a market in a significant way, it’s a pretty good way to say hello to the marketplace,” Freedman said.