BERKELEY – The University of California, Berkeley, the world’s top public university, and Kabam, Inc., the western world’s leader in free-to-play mobile games for traditional players, today announced a long-term partnership that includes the naming rights to the field at California Memorial Stadium. Additional elements include a scholarship program, an internship program, speaking engagements and other partnerships on campus around innovation and technology.
Starting in 2014, the field will be known as “Kabam Field at California Memorial Stadium.” The agreement between Cal and Kabam does not change the name of the stadium; it will forever be recognized as California Memorial Stadium. The 15-year contract is valued at almost $18 million.
“We jumped at the opportunity to partner with Cal on naming the field at California Memorial Stadium and creating significant educational and innovation programs that benefit students, veterans and the community at large,” said Kabam Co-Founder and CEO Kevin Chou, himself a Cal alumnus (Cal BS in business administration in 2002). “We love the opportunity to create a unique athletic and academic partnership that honors Kabam’s roots to Cal and ties to the continuous improvement of UC Berkeley.”
As part of the partnership, Kabam will establish a scholarship program to benefit Cal students who have demonstrated academic excellence and are interested in disruptive technology. Additionally, Cal Athletics will donate $25,000 to the University Library annually to help maintain its status as the No. 1 public research library in North America.
“First and foremost, I would like to thank Kabam for entering into this new and exciting partnership with Cal,” UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks said. “I especially want to recognize the members of Kabam's leadership team who earned their degrees from Berkeley -- and like so many of our alumni have demonstrated a true commitment to giving back to our campus.”
The on-field component of the agreement places the field name on the two 25-yard lines of Kabam Field. Kabam will also receive 50-yard-line signage above the Cal team bench and additional directional signage at the stadium. The on-field logos and signage are expected to be unveiled this spring.
Over time, Kabam, which was recently named the fastest growing internet media company in the Bay Area for the second consecutive year, and 17th fastest growing company overall in the U.S. in Deloitte’s 2013 Technology Fast 500™, will create an interactive gaming zone for fans at the stadium along with the scholarship program, internship program and other partnerships on campus around innovation and technology. Additionally, upon invitation from Cal faculty, Kabam executives will also participate as guest lecturers in graduate and undergraduate Cal classes.
“From the beginning, it was essential that we find a naming rights partner that would promote a meaningful association with our department and the campus as a whole, as well as value the academic and athletic excellence of our University,” Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour said. “We believe we have attained just that with Kabam, which can trace its origins to the Cal campus and continues to have a strong affiliation with our University. As a company, Kabam projects innovation and high performance, two characteristics we value highly in Cal Athletics. Kabam Field at California Memorial Stadium recognizes the important new partnership and keeps the stadium’s cherished name, now and forever.”
Built in 1923 and dedicated to Californians who gave their lives in the World War, California Memorial Stadium reopened in 2012 and was rededicated to all Californians who have sacrificed their lives in service to the nation. Starting next fall as part of a new Kabam Veteran Program included in the partnership, football tickets for 500 U.S. Armed Services Veterans and their families will be provided annually.
Though a young company, Kabam has had strong ties to Cal for more than a decade. Three of Kabam’s four co-founders and nearly 10 percent of the company’s employees headquartered in San Francisco are Cal alumni. In fact, Kabam Co-Founder Mike Li (Cal BS in electrical engineering & computer science class of 2001) wrote the business plan that became the genesis for Kabam when he was a student in a Cal engineering class on entrepreneurship. Li, who is now general manager of Kabam’s 140-employee studio in Beijing, met Chou through mutual Cal acquaintances when Chou was a Silicon Valley venture capitalist. Li and Chou, together with Kabam Chief of Staff Holly Liu (Cal master’s in information management & systems class of 2003), co-founded the company in 2006. Chou brought the financial and business acumen, Liu applied best product design practices and Li combined his engineering skills with those of the fourth co-founder, Wayne Chan. The founders changed the business model to a games company and renamed it Kabam in late 2010. Since then, the company has grown to more to more than 650 employees with more than $325 million in annual revenue in less than four years.
Further demonstrating the innovative abilities of Cal graduates, UC Berkeley has the second largest number of alumni who have founded U.S.-based companies receiving a first round of venture funding from 2010 through September 2013, according to PitchBook, the independent private equity and venture capital research firm. Kabam’s Kevin Chou, Mike Li and Holly Liu are among 160 alumni who have gone on to found a company in that time.
Cal retained Premier Partnerships, a sports advisory firm that specializes in high level naming rights sales for prestige properties.
Naming rights to the field is one element of a broad financing plan for both California Memorial Stadium and the adjacent Simpson Center for Student-Athlete High Performance unveiled nearly a year ago and reviewed by faculty from Berkeley Haas School of Business. Other aspects of the model include proceeds from the seat sales in the Endowment Seating Program (ESP), stadium lease and rental income, investment returns and philanthropy. In addition to securing the partnership between Cal and Kabam, long-tern agreements have been signed for a Haas School of Business Innovation Lab (iLab) and a Recreation Sports fitness facility inside the stadium. Taken together, these revenue streams are enabling Cal Athletics to meet its financial obligations, and as of the end of the 2013 fiscal year, the cash balance in a Fund Functioning as an Endowment for the projects was $54.7 million, or more than $2 million above the base-case expected value.
“From the very beginning, naming rights have been part of the financial model, which is meant to ensure that the athletic department is able to fulfill its responsibility and service its debt,” said John Wilton, Vice Chancellor for administration and finance. “Under these diversified sources of revenue, there is less reliance on any one particular component with more stability and certainty over the long run.”
With a value of nearly $1.2 million per year over the lifetime of the agreement, the Cal-Kabam partnership is the largest field naming rights deal in collegiate sports.
About UC Berkeley, Cal Athletics
The University of California was chartered in 1868 and its flagship campus — envisioned as a "City of Learning" — was established at Berkeley on San Francisco Bay. Today the world's premier public university and a wellspring of innovation, UC Berkeley occupies a 1,232 acre campus with a 178-acre central core. Nearly 36,000 students are enrolled, including more than 25,000 undergraduates and over 10,000 pursuing graduate degrees. Cal Athletics sponsors 29 intercollegiate programs supporting 850 student-athletes. Over its history, Golden Bear teams have captured 85 national team championships, and student-athletes, alumni and coaches have won 99 Olympic gold medals. Additional information is available at www.berkeley.edu and www.CalBears.com.
Kabam is the leader in the western world for free-to-play games for traditional players with first and third party published titles available on mobile devices via the Apple Store, Google Play, Amazon Appstore, and on the Web via Facebook, Yahoo, Kabam.com and other platforms. Kabam is the fastest growing Internet media company in the San Francisco Bay Area and the 17th fastest growing company overall in the U.S., according to Deloitte LLP. Kabam's 2013 revenues are expected to exceed $325 million, an 80 percent increase over 2012. The company is profitable and cash-flow positive, and has created four titles that have grossed more than $100M each in their life. Kabam’s Kingdoms of Camelot franchise has grossed more than $250 million in less than four years, making it one of the top 10 strategy franchises of all time. In 2012, Kabam Publishing was launched to provide third-party developers access to Kabam’s technology platform, distribution channels, data analytics and best practices that Kabam’s in-house development teams use to bring wildly successful games to players worldwide. Kabam has approximately 650 employees across three continents, with corporate headquarters in San Francisco. The company's investors include Google, Warner Brothers, MGM, Intel, Canaan Partners, Redpoint Ventures, Pinnacle Ventures and others. More information about Kabam can be found at www.kabam.com.
About Premier Partnerships
Premier Partnerships is a nationally recognized naming rights, sponsorship, and valuation firm specializing in the development and execution of customized commercial sales strategies for top tier facilities, sports and entertainment destinations, league and team properties, and university and municipal projects. With offices in Los Angeles and New York, Premier has been recognized as Sports Business Journal's Best in Property Consulting, Sales and Client Services. Premier executives have created thousands of mutually beneficial business partnerships, including but not limited to successful naming rights agreements at Dolby Theatre, TCL Chinese Theatre, O.Co Coliseum, Viejas Arena, Pizza Hut Park, Apogee Stadium, PPL Park, Cal Coast Credit Union Open Air Theatre. Additional information is available at www.PremierPartnerships.com.