Superdome Gets a New Name-Or At Least a Lot of Money!
Mercedes-Benz USA is announcing that it will have naming rights for the Superdome in a 10-year agreement. The deal caps the complete renovation finished this summer of the 73,000-seat home to the NFL's Saints and site of the 2013 Super Bowl.
With MetLife taking over naming rights for the New York Giants and New York Jets' $1.6 billion stadium in New Jersey and other deals, experts say the stadium naming-rights business is finally rebounding.
For the Superdome, it's about prestige. "This is yet another sign to the entire country that New Orleans and the state are coming back stronger (from) Katrina," said Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. The state owns the dome, opened in 1975. The Republican said Mercedes is a "natural partner" for the Superdome.
Saints owner Tom Benson, who owns Mercedes dealerships in New Orleans and San Antonio, says the new name will show everyone that the Big Easy isn't just a "sleepy little town...That hurricane woke everyone up." Benson credits his wife with broaching the idea of enticing Mercedes into buying naming rights for the stadium in a meeting with Mercedes' U.S. officials in Germany last April. "It worked out great for everyone," he says.
The more Mercedes U.S. officials kicked around the idea, the more it grew on them:
"The Superdome was an icon for how we (as a society) did things wrong but now is an icon for rebirth," says Stephen Cannon, a Mercedes' U.S. vice president. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The name change take effect Oct. 23 when the Saints face the Indianapolis Colts on NBC's Sunday Night Football.
While Jindal said the deal will be good for taxpayers, his office referred financial questions to the automaker and the team. Neither Mercedes-Benz nor Benson would discuss the financial terms.
During nonstop news coverage of New Orleans in the aftermath of the 2005 hurricane, the Superdome became a symbol of the chaos as the shelter of last resort. Hundreds sought shelter there as the flood waters rose, yet it was largely overlooked by relief crews amid the chaos. It also was reportedly the home to wanton violence by roving gangs, although many of those reports were later shown to be untrue.
Experts say Mercedes will gain from pinning its name on the facility, with $336 million in renovations.
"Naming rights allow you to get much closer to the fans than just about anything else," says John Brody, principal of Wasserman Media Group, which brokered naming deals for MetLife Stadium and Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.
Bill Webster of Sun Life Financial says renaming Dolphins Stadium as Sun Life Stadium has not only gotten NFL exposure, but also notice at Miami Hurricanes college football games and big-name rock concerts. "It's a way to break through some of the commercial clutter."