Casino marketing and sports sponsorships (2017)

Photo by  Benjamin Lambert  on  Unsplash

In recent years, casinos have been dipping into the major sponsorship realm more than ever before. As casinos mature, more emphasis has been placed on differentiating themselves from other competitors. And there is no bigger way than to tie your casino brand to some of the most recognizable teams and venues throughout their respective markets.

This list presents this year’s biggest moves and partnerships from Indian Country’s casinos. There are the usual suspects in the bunch along with first timers, new events, and new venues.

Here we go...

Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic

The Oneida Nation of Wisconsin is no noob when it comes to sports sponsorships. They have a rich history and have been in the game partnering with the Green Bay Packers for many years.

What’s new?

The Oneida Nation of Wisconsin pulled off an exciting and successful event by hosting the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic. The June 2017 event became the first LPGA event at a Native American owned golf course and played host to the biggest names on the LPGA tour.


By being the presenting sponsor to the first ever event along with having a lot of the required infrastructure in place, they were able to negotiate and integrate a lot of new elements into the event that are near and dear to the Oneida Nation including:

  • Discounted tickets to tribal members
  • Oneida inspired and designed tournament trophy
  • Opening ceremony
  • Meet & greets
  • Hospitality assets inspired by local cheesehead flavor
  • Promoted hotel stays at tribal owned property
  • Provided tours and promoted tribal tourism assets

Treasure Island Center Naming Rights

One of the heavy hitters throughout the gaming industry when it comes to sports sponsorship is Treasure Island Resort and Casino owned by the Prairie Island Indian Community (MN). They’ve been strong partners for years with three of the ‘Big 4’ sports leagues in the country- Minnesota Twins (MLB), Minnesota Wild (NHL), and the Minnesota Timberwolves (NBA).

In 2017, Treasure Island took their sponsorship game to another level by securing the naming rights to one of downtown St. Paul’s most recognizable venues to become ‘Treasure Island Center.

What makes this unique and pretty cool is that this is a multi-use space steeped in local history and a major component to the makeup of the community. The naming rights was the push it needed for local supporters to get on board and help this redevelopment project breathe new life into the downtown community.

Treasure Island Center

Treasure Island Center

Here’s a snapshot of the deal:

  • Minnesota Wild will hold practices on the top floor ice rink
  • Deal Breakdown
  • 5+ years
  • Financials: Not disclosed
  • Tribal heritage and history activation planned
  • 600,000 people expected to visit the rink each year

Menominee Nation Arena Naming Rights

The Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin wasted no time in partnering with the newest sports venue in Wisconsin. In October of 2017, they officially became the naming rights holder of the indoor home arena of the NBA G-League Wisconsin Herd which is the Milwaukee Bucks affiliate team.

Menominee Nation Arena.png

The Menominee Nation Arena is a brand new 3,500 seat arena that is the tribe’s first major endeavor with sports sponsorship.

The arena development has invigorated the locals as its affiliate team (Milwaukee Bucks) are actually putting a good product on the floor and has Wisconsinites excited about its hometown team. This energy and excited has trickled down to the Wisconsin Herd and the Menominee Nation have jumped at this well-timed opportunity to partner with an up and coming team and league.

The Menominee Casino Resort is optimistic that its partnership will grow awareness of the tribe, its history and culture along with drive more people to its casino property.

A little bit more on the deal:

  • Basketball court is a product of the Menominee reservation and its enterprise
  • Arena to host tribal youth clinics to promote healthy active lifestyles
  • Health & Wellness programs developed alongside Wisconsin Herd
  • 5 year deal, financials not disclosed

Mohegan Sun Arena & Webster Bank Arena Partnership

Ahh yes. If there were ever a Mount Rushmore of casinos as it relates to sports sponsorship, the Mohegan Tribe and Mohegan Sun have to make the cut. Mohegan Sun is one of the OG’s of the sports sponsorship world and made another strong move in 2017.

In December 2017, Mohegan Sun announced a new partnership with Webster Bank Arena that plays off each venue’s strengths in order to draw more brand awareness and visitors to their respective properties. Together, they’ll look to coordinate and be more strategic in marketing entertainment and sporting events within this market.

If anyone can pull off this cross marketing partnership that relies on two separate venues that are 70 miles apart, Mohegan Sun can certainly do this.

Thunder Valley Casino & Topgolf Partnership

Thunder Valley Casino Resort tops 2017 in the out of the box category while still making perfect sense. In early 2017, the casino became the exclusive resort partner of Topgolf Roseville near Sacramento.

With this 2 year sponsorship, the Topgolf rooftop has been rebranded as the Thunder Valley Rooftop Terrace. The press release reads “To further enhance the Topgolf guest experience, the casino will sponsor the Thunder Valley 15th Ball Challenge, beginning 1 April. Players will compete for a grand prize Thunder Valley Casino Resort package valued at $1,100, which includes limo service, spa vouchers, dinner, golf at Whitney Oaks Golf Club and concert tickets to Thunder Valley's 2017 Summer Concert Series.”

topgolf roseville.jpg

I’m curious to how they’ll grow this partnership as I think there’s a lot of upside especially running promotions and competitions on property alongside PGA and LPGA events in realtime. I think a trip to Roseville is needed. I’ll let you know what I come up with.

Angel of the Winds Arena Naming Rights

The Stillaguamish Tribe of Indians owned Angel of the Winds Casino Resort made headlines by securing the naming rights of the former Everett Events Center. The newly named Angel of the Winds Casino Arena is definitely a huge asset as the arena boasts steady attendance numbers for both entertainment shows and sporting events.

“Our resort and casino provide the local community and greater Seattle market with an opportunity to experience the excitement of an award-winning gaming and leisure experience. Through our partnership with the newly named Angel Of The Winds Arena, our customers and all the people of the Pacific Northwest will be able to experience sports and entertainment on an unprecedented scale,” said Travis O’Neil, General Manager of Angel Of The Winds Casino Resort.

angel of the winds arena.jpeg

Deal snapshot:

  • 10 year naming rights partnership through 2028
  • $3.4 million over the life of the contract
  • Exterior rebranding of the arena to ‘Angel of the Winds Arena’
  • Interior advertising signage

Agua Caliente partners with G-League Team

And finally, this year’s annual review wouldn’t be complete without giving props to one of the formidable casino properties near Los Angeles. And this year, Agua Caliente made headlines with yet another big move by sponsoring the L.A. Clippers affiliate team the ‘Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario’ of the NBA’s G-League.

Terms of the deal have not been disclosed but based on their existing relationship with the L.A. Clippers, this is a well executed move for both sides that is filled with the usual assets and benefits along with some special elements.

Agua Caliente Clippers.png

This makes two casino properties or tribes to partner with the G-League in 2017. When compared to the behemoth sponsorship costs of an NBA team, the G-League teams present a cheaper starting point that can blossom into bigger deals as the two sides begin to build those mutually beneficial relationships.

2017 was a great year when it comes to sports sponsorships. The casino properties continued to stretch the boundaries of what is typical of sponsorship agreements and these are clearly big steps in the right direction.

2018 looks to be another exciting year as some casino partnership deals are expiring, new venues are being built, new teams and leagues are forming, leagues are lessening restrictions on gaming advertising, new assets are being added to a team’s inventory (i.e. jersey patches), and the emergence of eSports will make for another great year of marketing and gaining market share through sports sponsorships.