NBA basketball franchise the San Antonio Spurs has ended its search for a new arena naming rights sponsor after striking a deal with long-time commercial partner, Frost Bank.
The agreement in principle, which is subject to approval from the NBA, will see the AT&T Center renamed as Frost Bank Center. Terms of the contract were not officially disclosed, but the San Antonio Express-News said it will continue until the Spurs’ current lease deal with Bexar County expires in 2032, with Sportico adding Frost Bank will be paying around $9m (£7.08m/€8.22m) annually.
In October, Spurs Sports & Entertainment (SS&E), parent company of the Spurs, agreed a short-term extension to its arena naming rights deal with telecommunications company AT&T, whilst it continued to seek out a new sponsor.
In November 2021, SS&E appointed Legends Global Partnerships to seek a new naming rights sponsor for AT&T Center. The naming rights were placed on the market for the first time in the venue’s 20-year history. The arena opened in 2002 as the SBC Center before becoming AT&T Center in 2006 following SBC Communications’ rebrand to AT&T.
AT&T’s deal had expired following the 2021-22 NBA season and Legends was selected to represent SS&E in securing a new sponsor for the arena. A new deal was due to begin in the autumn of 2022.
AT&T severed its official ties to the Spurs through the June 2021 announcement that Sixth Street, a leading global investment firm, and Michael Dell, chairman and CEO of Dell Technologies, had joined the franchise’s investor group as strategic partners. AT&T’s minority stake of around 7% was reported to have been part of the 30% stake acquired by Sixth Street and Dell.
Frost’s naming rights designation is intended to celebrate the company’s position as the Spurs’ longest-tenured partner and bank, with the relationship dating back 50 years. Frost and the Spurs first joined forces in 1973 when former CEO Tom C. Frost, who died in 2018, provided the financing necessary to move the franchise to San Antonio.
Throughout the 50-year partnership, Frost has also served as the team’s first-ever jersey patch partner from the 2018-19 through the 2021-22 seasons and partner for the soon-to-be-opened Frost Plaza at The Rock at La Cantera, which will serve as a hub for community events.
Frost recently expanded its W. W. White Financial Center in the East Side area that is home to the Spurs arena. Frost chairman and CEO, Phil Green, said yesterday (Thursday): “We believe in San Antonio – it’s our hometown. We want this relationship with the Spurs to demonstrate our unwavering sense of pride for San Antonio’s rich history and its bright future.
“The longevity and success of both the Spurs and Frost Bank are rooted in our shared values of integrity, caring and excellence. These values ultimately help strengthen and shape our entire community. For 50 years, we have been proud to be a sponsor and a partner with the Spurs.”
Starting with the 2023-24 season, the Frost Bank Center will feature the newly unveiled Frost Club, complete with a ‘Puro Meter’ corridor mural and game-day interactive light show that changes with the volume of fan noise inside the arena bowl.
Upon approval, work will begin to change assets such as road and highway names, building marquees and new signage including the media press backdrop, centre court jumbotron and court. The new Frost Bank Center court will be ready for the start of the 2023-24 Spurs season.
In addition to the arena naming rights, the expanded partnership will also include a comprehensive community impact platform as well as expanded in-arena and digital presences. The Spurs and Frost will team up to provide community programming centred on financial belonging.
R.C. Buford, SS&E CEO, said: “Fifty years ago, our two organisations envisioned the potential of what a professional sports team could mean for our community, and it is only fitting that we’re joining efforts to welcome fans into the home of the San Antonio Spurs.
“Aligning the Frost and Spurs names in such a major way celebrates both our enduring presence in Texas and our shared commitment to communities we have the privilege of serving.”
The Spurs were last month reported to be exploring plans for a new downtown arena that could form part of a wider sports and entertainment district.
The Spurs’ fan base is expected to grow in the coming years after the team selected No.1 pick Victor Wembanyama at the NBA Draft in June. The 19-year-old Frenchman is considered one of the brightest NBA prospects in recent years.
While Spurs officials yesterday declined to comment on new arena plans, Green admitted that the signing of Wembanyama will only serve to enhance the returns on its sponsorship deal. He added: “Having Wemby is icing on the cake. It’s a unique time in the life of the Spurs organisation.
“I think it just makes sense that all the media attention and all that we’re getting today is going to increase. It’s going to help us in terms of the reach of the Frost Bank Center name.”