Ball Corp. and Kroenke Sports Securing Trophies While Giving Out Cups
The Denver Nuggets are vying for their first NBA title, and one of their biggest corporate sponsors is enjoying the ride.
Ball Corp., one of the world's largest metal-can manufacturers, is drinking up the attention as the naming rights partner for Denver's Ball Arena, which is also home to the NHL's Colorado Avalanche and NLL's Colorado Mammoth. While the Avalanche and Mammoth both won titles last year, the Nuggets’ run to the NBA Finals brings a different level of shine, with more viewership and fans from around the globe tuning in.
"It's been so much excitement and beyond anyone's expectations of what would happen when we decided to put our name on that arena," Ball Aluminum Cups president and general manager Emily Fong Mitchell said in a video interview.
Ball entered into a long-term agreement with parent company Kroenke Sports Entertainment (KSE) in 2020, amid the pandemic, and is reportedly paying roughly $6 million a year for the naming rights. Its return on investment is difficult to quantify, Mitchell says, but the in-broadcast brand exposure through the opening two games in Denver has resulted in $31.9 million worth of buzz, according to Apex Marketing Group. This includes verbal mentions and in-arena exposures during the ABC broadcasts.
Amid all the winning, the 21,000-seat arena, built in 1999, has also become a leader in environmental stewardship thanks to the support of KSE, which has contributed recycling infrastructure and investment.
With help from Team Aluminum, a group of on-site ambassadors who collect recyclable items during the games, Ball and KSE have recycled more than 40,000 pounds of aluminum. KSE has also placed more than 250 recycling bins around Ball Arena, according to Ball's company website.
"It wasn't set up to be this arena of the future, but I think that's also a great success story," Mitchell said. "We’ve able to work with what they have and make it work for us."
The promotional bump from the NBA Finals is the latest example of how Ball's wide-ranging partnership with KSE has reached beyond Denver to spur Ball's drive to grow sales and promote its sustainability efforts, which range from eliminating plastic bottles and cups in sports venues to longer term goals like pushing for net zero carbon emissions before 2050.
The partnership gives Ball access to the entire sports portfolio of KSE, which is owned by Stan Kroenke. That includes not just the Denver teams and the NFL's Los Angeles Rams but also the EPL's Arsenal FC. Ball also pushes in-venue aluminum packaging at KSE's top-tier sports venues in Sofi Stadium in Englewood and Emirates Stadium in London. Outside of activations and signage, those deals focus more on community activities and initiatives. For example, Ball plans to use Arsenal's U.S. tour this summer as a chance to introduce its environmental program to stateside soccer fans.
Those sustainability efforts run throughout its aerospace and packaging businesses—the company joined the U.N. Global Compact on sustainability in 2022—but the centerpiece is the Ball Aluminum Cup. The company's first consumer-facing product since it sold off the division that made its famous glass jars more than two decades ago, the Aluminum Cup replaces its plastic competitor with one that's reusable, light and 100% recyclable. It also has the company's logo inscribed on it, drawing eyeballs at events and when it appears on TV in the hands of fans sitting courtside, including celebrities.
"It's more of an opportunity to engage with consumers about sustainability," Greg Schlicht, a senior vice president at Novelis, which makes the cups for Ball, said in a video interview. "That, for me, is at the heart of it. You have captive audiences [in sports venues] where you can give them a message about recycling, and it resonates with folks in that space."
Ball (NYSE: BALL) recently reported a net income of $177 million during the first quarter, which was down 60% year-over-year as consumer demand continues to be impacted by inflation-driven higher costs and supply-chain disruptions.
Returns inside Ball Arena, meanwhile, have provided moments of hometown pride for Ball, which is based in Westminster, Colo., and has more than 6,000 of its 22,000 employees located in the Denver metro area. The Stanley Cup was perched in the cafeteria at HQ earlier this year, and team mascots have made appearances on campus as well. Ball employees last week hosted a Nuggets rally during their lunch break.
"It's about our consumers but it's also about our employees and our hometown," Mitchell said.
Without jinxing the Nuggets, Ball and KSE are peeking at plans for a championship parade and plotting how to deploy more limited-edition aluminum cups to fans. There are still some leftover cups from last year's parade celebrating the Avalanche's third title.
Ball and KSE are hoping they’ll be put to good use.