Firstar Corp. has signed a 10-year agreement to put its name on a Cincinnati sports arena.
The Milwaukee banking company would not disclose what it is to pay for the naming rights, though observers estimated the cost at about $5 million.
The arena, now known as The Crown and formerly Riverfront Coliseum, is scheduled to be renamed Firstar Center on Monday. It is home to the International Hockey League's Cincinnati Cyclones.
With the agreement, Firstar joins a stadium-naming trend among financial and other companies. Chicago-based Bank One Corp. has a 30-year, $66 million deal for naming rights to Bank One Ballpark, where the Arizona Diamondbacks play baseball. Last month, Comerica Inc. of Detroit announced a 30-year, $66 million deal to name the stadium being built for the Detroit Tigers.
The $38.5 billion-asset Firstar, formed Nov. 20 when Cincinnati-based Star Banc Corp. bought the old Firstar of Milwaukee, has kicked off a campaign to promote its brand.
The company plans to spend $6 million during the year to introduce the name in Star Banc markets and build more recognition in Firstar markets. Star Banc branches are to get Firstar signs by midyear.
Firstar has a two-pronged branding strategy, according to spokesman Steven Dale. "The former Star Banc will be announcing its new name and changing signage," he said, and in the old Firstar's markets, "we'll be introducing new products and services."
The company has created a logo that combines the Firstar name and Star Banc's "bank without boundaries" slogan.
Known as one of the most cost-conscious companies in banking, Firstar made a particularly thrifty deal to get naming rights to the Cincinnati arena. Lance Helgeson, managing editor of IEG Sponsorship Report, a Chicago-based newsletter, said Firstar probably is spending no more than $500,000 a year. Typically, banking companies have had to spend $2 million to $3 million annually for arena naming-though those are for major league venues.
In addition to 41 hockey games a year, the Cincinnati auditorium is home to concerts, ice shows, and a couple of college basketball games, said Joe Kelley, a spokesman for the center and the Cyclones. The hockey team owns the arena.
Firstar is into its third year as the official bank of the Cincinnati Reds baseball team. It does not have its moniker on the Reds' ballpark, Cinergy Field, which is named for the local electric company. The Firstar- Reds agreement mostly covers marketing sponsorships and automated teller machine rights.