Kabam has entered the major leagues of corporate branding with an $18 million deal that will rebrand the University of California at Berkeley's Memorial Stadium as Kabam Field at California Memorial Stadium.
Cal Berkelely told Venture Beat the deal is the biggest field naming-rights agreement in the history of U.S. college sports.
“We have such a strong ties to Cal,” said Kabam CEO Kevin Chou.
“The original business plan, for doing social networking, was created in a Cal classroom. It wasn’t the game company. But of the four co-founders, three of us went to Cal and that’s how we go to know each other.”
This sort of University affiliation is common in Silicon Valley, where Google and Facebook used to draw most of their recruits from Stanford and MIT, but this sort of expenditure on corporate branding – particularly one so closely associated with one school's athletics department - is unheard of in the world of mobile game development.
The deal, brokered by sports marketing company Premier Partnerships, began to take shape when Berkeley began looking for sponsors after California began to cut school funding.
“At first, we said it sounds crazy. But they came to us and said here is the profile of the kind of company they are looking for. It is their first corporate sponsorship ever,” Chou explained.
“The state is cutting funding, and that’s horrible. We felt we got so much out of Cal that it was a great way to give back. We’ll do guest lectures. We’ll have a scholarship.”
There's potentially more to this than just getting Kabam's name on one of the more popular sporting venues in the Bay Area.
The University of California education system is credited by many as the primary reason for the formation of the Silicon Valley ecosystem.
Some in the Bay Area worry that if the universities can't get funding the flood of young talent that fueled the region's rise to prominence will slow - potentially damaging the symbiosis of startups and investors that have made San Francisco the world capital of technological innovation.
Of course, Berkeley will need more than just $18 million paid over 15 years to pay off the debt from its $321 million stadium renovation and Kabam has plenty of studios outside the Bay Area, so it's not like a mobile games studio is single-handedly bailing out the education system.
But the fact that a games company is contributing to one of the schools that made the region what it is today is certainly a victory for Kabam's public relations campaign - branding games not just as electronic toys, but as a multi-million dollar industry worthy of public attention.