That’s right ladies and gentleman, you want to go see a show at the Wal-Mart Ryman, or maybe at the Grand Ole International House of Pancakes? Well that’s exactly what country fans could be facing in the future now that Ryman Hospitality (previously Gaylord Entertainment) has partnered with Creative Artists Agency to attempt to sell their naming rights, Billboard reports.
Congratulations ladies and gentlemen, your most coveted country music institutions are now officially whoring themselves.
The deal encompassing “title sponsorships, on-site branding, and national marketing partnerships” between Creative Artists Agency, and both The Grand Ole Opry and the Ryman Auditorium could for the first time make these historic institutions and the programs they house a suffix after nationally-recognized sales brands.
Creative Artists Agency has also reached a deal with the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame to sell their naming rights, but as a non-profit, the Rock Hall could only use a corporate brand at the end of their current name, like “presented by” or “sponsored by.” But as for-profit institutions, the Ryman and Grand Ole Opry are free game to do whatever they want.
And if you’re not too worried about the news because the Opry could partner with some cool, local Nashville company, think again. The reason for the naming rights sale is not just the money that could be generated from the sponsorship, but to supposedly increase brand awareness for it on a national level, meaning only huge, nationally-recognized brands need apply.
Though the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation and the Grand Ole Opry Group have partnered with sponsors at a regional and national level in the past, both organizations are looking to expand their reach. “They rely on attendance, and a good partner could help them promote and align with what they’re doing in the long term as well as put more people in seats,” says Tom Worcester, head of CAA’s music sponsorships group.
Gaylord Entertainment, the longtime owner of The Grand Ole Opry and the Ryman Auditorium was sold to Marriott International earlier this year, and has since restructured from an entertainment company into a REIT, or Real Estate Investment Trust, and changed their name to Ryman Hospitality.
Gaylord’s two biggest investors opposed the restructuring, with one having to be bought out to go along with the deal, and the second opposing the deal specifically requesting the Grand Ole Opry assets be spun off from the company as part of the sale, believing they would prosper better as an autonomous unit as opposed to being managed in a real estate and hospitality structure. The deal also destroyed a partnership with Dolly Parton to build an water/winter amusement park in Nashville.
This naming rights sale, and the induction of Darius Rucker as a Grand Ole Opry member could be just the beginning of the changes we see from the Grand Ole Opry as the new parent company attempts to market the brand for maximum profitability.