The NFL has moved three teams in 15 months, and it saved the biggest for last.
The Oakland Raiders have announced that in 2019 they will become the Las Vegas Raiders – relocating their storied Los Angeles-then-Bay Area franchise to the infamous desert oasis that, up until 12 months ago, was tied to professional sports only through legalized gambling.
The Chargers’ and Rams’ moves to Los Angeles created headlines, but the Raiders’ move to Vegas will create opportunities as unique as Sin City itself.
Las Vegas is unlike any other market currently in the NFL, and the Raiders will be able to capitalize on the draw of its new city for airline and hotel packages, enticing Las Vegas’ 40 million annual visitors, said rEvolution EVP of Consulting & Research Darren Marshall.
“I would think it’s a much more attractive destination for out of town fans than Oakland, and they would do well with something like this,” Marshall said.
One item still yet to be decided is when the divorce from Oakland will be finalized. Their new stadium, which will be shared with the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, is not expected to be completed until 2020 – and the Raiders’ current lease is up in 2019; leaving a big question mark on where exactly they’ll play their home games for their last pre-Vegas year. UNLV’s current stadium, as well as San Francisco’s Levi’s Stadium have been thrown out as possibilities.
But the longer the team stays in Oakland, the murkier the situation becomes from a marketing standpoint. An extra year or two beyond the 2017 season means the need for contract renewals in various sponsorship spaces, a nearly impossible sell to Oakland-based businesses that have now seen the franchise leave a city behind twice in the last 35 years.
“It will impact the local sponsors. The team will lose its Bay Area deals and need to replace them with Vegas deals, which likely would be a fairly easy process,” said Marshall.
Retaining Bay Area sponsors for the remaining occupancy at the Oakland Coliseum will be a much more difficult process.
“The smart ones will have an escape clause (negotiated in their contracts with the Raiders) if the team leaves. This is something rEvolution advises,” said Marshall. “Others could try and use the general break clause for doing something that calls their reputation into disrepute. That’s tougher. The Raiders also might let them out of the deal as they are doing with season ticket holders. I don’t see anyone whose deal is up between now and when they leave renewing, so it’s really just when the exodus begins.”
Las Vegas will be a marketing oasis for the Raiders. Until then, though, expect to see the Oakland market go dark.