Sponsorship & Marketing

Knighthead makes major investment in St. Andrew’s naming rights

Featured image credit: Birmingham City FC

Birmingham City’s owners, US investment firm Knighthead Annuity & Life Assurance, have furthered their investment in the English Championship football club by announcing a multi-year stadium naming rights deal that could be worth as much as £25.4m (€29.8m/$32.4m) over the initial three years.

City announced today (Friday) that it had entered into the deal with Shelby Companies Limited, which is majority owned by Knighthead and certain other minority investors, including NFL legend Tom Brady.

In what is being described as the largest commercial agreement in the club’s history, City’s St. Andrew’s stadium will be renamed St. Andrew’s @ Knighthead Park. The club’s Wast Hills training ground will be renamed The Knighthead Training and Academy Grounds, while a new fan ‘entertainment zone’ will be built, situated on club-owned land close to the Tilton and Main Stand at the stadium.

The re-named stadium, training ground, and new fan zone will be launched before the end of the 2023-24 Championship season. The value of the agreement is based on an annual sponsorship fee, a men’s first team performance-related bonus and a club wide social media performance-related bonus.

For the remainder of the current season, the value to the club with incentives could reach £6,241,666.67. In 2024-25, the first full year of the partnership, the value, with incentives, could reach £9.45m, increasing again to £9.725m in 2025-26.

The basic sponsorship fee will be just over £2.29m for this season, increasing to £5.5m and £5.775m over the next two campaigns. The club performance bonus will comprise £50,000 per position in the league.

Meanwhile, for every 20 million verified impressions on social media the club will be paid a performance bonus of £100,000, rising to a maximum of £3m per year. Knighthead will also receive significant physical and digital branding rights across the stadium, training grounds and all club-owned channels.

Knighthead has also committed to donate £100,000 per annum, beginning at the start of the 2024-25 season, to the Birmingham City Football Club Foundation. Knighthead Park is the first step in the club’s plan to build a ‘Sports Quarter’ in the heart of Birmingham incorporating recreational, mixed-use and other space.

Knighthead Park will play a central role in the company’s global marketing strategy as it looks to build its brand presence and expand its business interests in the UK, the US and across other global markets.

In June, the English Football League (EFL) approved Tom Wagner’s acquisition of a controlling 45.96% stake in City. Wagner, co-founder of New York-based Knighthead Capital Management, earlier agreed to acquire a stake in City and assume ownership of St. Andrew’s.

Wagner had highlighted improvements to St. Andrew’s as a key priority. The stadium has fallen into disrepair in recent years, with supporters in November returning back to all areas of St. Andrew’s for the first time since before the outbreak of COVID-19. This followed the completion of remedial work on the Kop Lower stand, which had been closed since March 2020 due to structural issues.

Earlier this month, City agreed a multi-year partnership with the European arm of US sports and entertainment company, Oak View Group (OVG), as it ramps up plans for St. Andrew’s stadium under its new ownership group.

Under the terms of the agreement, OVG will work with the club to develop a long-term strategy to maximise the commercial value of St. Andrew’s and City’s training grounds; create a new commercial framework for future infrastructure projects that Knighthead is committed to delivering; and seek to secure additional relationships with global partners.

Wagner, chairman of Knighthead and the club, said today: “St. Andrew’s @ Knighthead Park is step one in our plan to create a world-renowned ‘Sports Quarter’ in Birmingham.

“We invested in Blues because of the opportunity to not only transform a football club but to also be a catalyst for change in the city itself. Our ambition is bold. It is for the club to become a beacon of excellence for Birmingham.

“We are at an early stage in the journey, but we have already started to capture the imagination of a global audience. It is only going to grow. That is why the timing of the multi-year naming rights partnership is perfect and why it is so important to Knighthead.

“We continue to invest heavily in the stadium and training grounds to make them fit for purpose. The process will continue as we pursue the development of the broader Knighthead Park. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to enter into a partnership that will grow the brands of both Knighthead and BCFC, while remaining true to our goal of achieving excellence across both enterprises.”

Birmingham City CEO, Garry Cook, added: “Birmingham is now a global story and the club is at its epicentre. A worldwide audience has tuned in to what is happening at Blues, they want to find out more, and we have only just scratched the surface of what is possible.

“St. Andrew’s @ Knighthead Park and the ambitious plan for a ‘Sports Quarter’ will become a proxy brand for Knighthead. It will be world class and a clear statement of intent.

“Knighthead has invested in Birmingham and is bringing a level of ambition that is going to improve the fortunes of both the club and the city itself. New thinking and approaches are required for football clubs to grow and compete. Our partnership is an example of this. 

“We look at the football world differently and we know that creating broader awareness and engagement across social and other media platforms will increase our commercial growth opportunities. 

“For Blues, this means the prospect of significant investment, both on and off the pitch. This is the future and yet another massive vote of confidence from Knighthead in Birmingham and in the transformation that we are driving at the club.”