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Kabam It Is: Cal sells naming rights to Memorial Stadium football field for $18 million

December 5, 2013

The news hit just like it sounded—with a Kabam. UC Berkeley has struck an $18 million deal with the internet video game maker, granting it naming rights to the gridiron at Memorial Stadium for the next 15 years.

No doubt hip mobile game players and tech finance wizards recognize “Kabam” as the name of the Bay Area’s fastest growing internet media company and purveyor of games such as “The Hobbit: Armies of the Third Age.” The moniker may strike the rest of us as an odd onomatopoeia—the kind of title card prone to flash across the fight scenes in “Batman” episodes, somewhere between “Pow” and “Smack.”

In any case, after this spring’s unveiling of the new signage, Cal football fans will get used to seeing the Kabam logo emblazoned across the two 25-yard lines, on the 50-yard-line above the Cal bench, and elsewhere around what is to be known as “Kabam Field at California Memorial Stadium.”

Three of the company’s four co-founders are UC Berkeley alums.

“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, who received a bachelor’s 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.”

Chancellor Nicholas Dirks praised “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.”

As news of the deal was announced Thursday afternoon, reaction started flying fast and furious.

“Kudos to Kabam for stepping up and helping out the Alma Mater,” wrote Javi Martin on the Cal Alumni Association’s Facebook page. “I would have done the same if I were CEO of a successful company.”

“Kabam Field? Kabam Field? Really?” wrote Dan Brekke on KQED’s blog News Fix. Straining to overcome his initial skepticism, he allows, “Well, maybe it will grow on me. I can imagine future crowds at Memorial Stadium yelling “Kabam!” in unison when the Golden Bears sack an opposing quarterback. Or maybe visiting fans will chant it when a Bears player suffers a pratfall.”

Other skeptics seem to be digging in for the long haul.

“In case Sandy Barbour was wondering—and she isn’t—neither I nor any right-thinking human will ever call the football field inside Memorial Stadium Kabam Field,” wrote longtime Bay Area sportswriter Ray Ratto for Comcast Sports Net. “I cast no aspersions on the video game company, but the name is stupid, and the idea barely better. That is, unless she has uncovered some historical artifact that shows that the old Cal coach’s name was actually Pappy Kabam. Then we’re on board.

“Well, that’s a lie. We’re still not.”

Read the University’s announcement here.

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