By Michael Kinney
OKLAHOMA CITY– Outside of drafting a game-changing draft pick or landing a big-time free agent, the Oklahoma City Thunder had no bigger deal in front of them this summer than deciding who was going to put their name on the organization’s arena.
For the past 10 years, that job had been bestowed on Chesapeake Energy, an energy company based in Oklahoma City. But after financial issues forced the company to end its partnership this year, the Thunder didn’t have to wait too long or look too far to find a replacement.
The Oklahoma City Thunder announced Tuesday it had entered into an exclusive, 15-year naming rights partnership with Paycom that will turn the Chesapeake Energy Arena into the Paycom Center.
“Chesapeake was an unbelievable partner for the Thunder for a little more than 12 years. As a naming rights partner for the last 10 and a half, as they were beginning their process to move away from this, they were very transparent with us,” said Thunder Senior Vice President Brian Byrnes. “We talked to a number of brands that were interested in this. It’s a very complicated negotiation when you think about a 15-year partnership and everything that you have tried to predict the future. It allowed us the time to work with Paycom and to understand what they were looking for as a brand and how it would help us and help our arena.”
Like Chesapeake, Paycom is a homegrown Oklahoma-based company. A member of the S&P 500, Paycom has a market cap of approximately $23 billion, and is one of the country’s fastest-growing publicly traded companies.
“The brand is all about innovation,” said Paycom PR and Communications Director Jason Bodin. “Since it’s founding 1998 by Chad Richardson, who developed one of the first online payroll solutions. We are the proof source that technology can grow here in the Midwest and aligning with the Thunder is only going to help propel both of our brands.”
Paycom and the Thunder had already been in a limited partnership. But now, with the new exclusive deal, the companies name and bold green colors will be prevalent inside and out of the Paycom Center. ‘
The naming rights agreement consists of several marquee Paycom Center signage locations, including the building’s exterior and roof, game floor, scoreboard and more.
Paycom will retain its branded on-court signage in front of the player benches and will continue actively engaging the community that is so important to Paycom and the Thunder. The financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
However, it is expected to be similar to the one the Thunder had with Chesapeake Energy, which paid the organization $3 million a year.
The top naming rights deal in the NBA belongs to the Toronto Raptors. Their deal with ScotiaBank is worth $30 million a year. Golden State is second at $15 million a year.
In many respects, the bringing in of Paycom is turning another page on its past for the Thunder and state. The state had been known in the business circles only for its gas and oil business.
But now, Oklahoma is creating its own space in the technology as well.
“Paycom as a brand has an unbelievable story. An entrepreneurial startup company that is now the fastest growing most successful company in the state of Oklahoma. A Fortune 500 company with more than 4,000 local employees. They’re a technology company,” Byrnes said. “They’re very innovative. They have a great vision for the future, and they’re really focused on their community. All values that we would say the Thunder believe in as well. We want to be forward-thinking. We want to build a brand of great significance. We want to invest in our community and to do that with a brand like Paycom, we’re both Oklahoman-founded, Oklahoman-fueled.”
The partnership benefits Paycom as well.
“Paycom is a very competitive business category called human capital management and it’s a very competitive space. And while they are a leader in that space today, they have to fight every day for new clients to retain clients and continue to grow their business,” Byrnes said. “And so as they look at their marketing portfolio, being aligned with the Thunder and being able to be a part of all of our marketing assets, our media, our television, the most significant platform that we can offer, which quite frankly has a global reach, is a very significant marketing value for a brand. And Paycom recognizes that they realize that they can use that to help amplify what they stand for and how they want to grow, how they want to recruit their talent, how they want to keep their talent, how they want to open up new lines of business. They’re going to be very aggressive marketers. And this is one of the tools that they now have at their disposal.”
The name change takes effect immediately, with exterior signage to be completed in time for the start of the 2021-22 Thunder season. For the new season, the Thunder plans to reopen the building and bring fans back to enjoy the complete Thunder game experience.
For Byrnes, thinking about having fans back to watch the Thunder for the first time in almost two years inside the Paycom Center is something he is looking forward to seeing.
“I get chills. I think beyond announcing our partnership with Paycom in Paycom Center today, we’re also acknowledging that when the Thunder takes the court this fall, we expect it to be in front of a full house,” Byrnes said. “We expect to have 18,000 people in this building on opening night and get back to what we really have missed in these last 18 months. We’ve missed the energy and the camaraderie and the connectedness that we have with our fans. And to be able to do that on opening night in Paycom Center, I think is going to be a special night for all of us.”
Copyright Michael Kinney Media