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New Orleans Saints rev up new Mercedes-Benz moniker for the Superdome

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; A few years ago, Mercedes-Benz wasn't in the market to be a naming-rights partner for an NFL stadium. Mercedez-Benz USA President and CEO Ernst Leib talks about his company's deal with the Superdome. Back then, Ernst Lieb, the CEO of ...

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Old 10-05-2011, 09:02 AM   #1
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A few years ago, Mercedes-Benz wasn't in the market to be a naming-rights partner for an NFL stadium.

Mercedez-Benz USA President and CEO Ernst Leib talks about his company's deal with the Superdome.
Back then, Ernst Lieb, the CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA, wouldn't have even considered having the German-based luxury automaker's name associated with an American sports arena.

But the allure of grabbing some of the spotlight and potential customers that the NFL brings, as well as being a part of the Gulf South's rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina, changed his views.

That's why Lieb flew in from Germany on Tuesday to take part in a news conference announcing Mercedes-Benz's purchase of the naming rights of the Louisiana Superdome, a move that will change the 36-year old stadium's name to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton; General Manager Mickey Loomis; players Drew Brees, Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma; Mayor Mitch Landrieu and host of local legislators were also on hand for the announcement.

The 10-year deal is worth between $50 million and $60 million, according to sources, and will eliminate the possibility of the state paying direct subsidies to the Saints.

"I don't think three or four years ago, Mercedes-Benz would have thought about going into a relationship like this," Lieb said.

All that changed after an innocent suggestion by Gayle Benson, the wife of Saints owner Tom Benson, that the NFL franchise consider selling the stadium's naming rights to the automaker. Months of courting by some of the team's top executives followed, and their presentation was enough to sway Mercedes-Benz, which doesn't have its name on any American sports buildings. The company does have naming-rights deals at a stadium in Germany and in China.

It wasn't an easy sell.

John McCusker / The Times-Picayune Representatives from the New Orleans Saints, Mercedez-Benz and elected officials gathered at the newly named Mercedes-Benz Superdome Tuesday, October 4, 2011 to mark the naming rights agreement with the German automaker.
"Within the U.S. organization it was a very easy sale, to be quite honest," Lieb said. "But with a deal like this we have to go Germany, and we have to have certain approvals there. That was a little bit more difficult. That was a hurdle, but we took it."

The announcement comes slightly more than six years after Hurricane Katrina tore the roof off the stadium as it was being used as a shelter by thousands of New Orleanians. A massive renovation allowed it to reopen for the 2006 NFL season, and the building has been improved every offseason since, with the final touches of the $336 million project completed in August. The state paid for $85 million of the project.

"From a place of last refuge in Hurricane Katrina, to a facility where we recently invested $85 million for improvements to help attract corporate sponsorship from world-renown Mercedes-Benz USA, the Superdome is a symbol of our state's success in not only rebuilding, but building back better than ever," Gov. Bobby Jindal said Tuesday. "Louisiana is making a comeback, and the nation is taking notice."

Mercedes-Benz benefits

Mercedes-Benz didn't purchase the naming rights to the Dome as a philanthropic gesture. The company's executives see it as a solid investment, one that can pay huge dividends considering the amount of exposure the iconic stadium will receive as it hosts three national sporting events in the next 16 months: January's BCS championship game, April's men's Final Four, and the Super Bowl in February 2013.

The high-profile events and the success and stature of the building's primary tenant -- the Saints -- are expected to help the marketability of Mercedes-Benz, which has plans to unveil a new fleet of automobiles that cater to a wide-ranging audience.

"This is tremendous for us," Lieb said. "We are basically looking at, 'Where are our customers, where are we today selling our cars,' and we have cars starting at $31,000. And down the road you will see that we are going to go a lot more forceful into that segment, even below $30,000, which means many of the 73,000 people who are going to come in here for the games actually can afford a car like this."

The NFL has become a $1 billion-per-year industry, with companies clamoring for ways to reach the league's fan base. Some, like Mercedes-Benz, are even willing to make a multimillion dollar commitment to do so.

"We are operating in North America, we are operating in the U.S.," Lieb said. "What we have to do here is we have to cater to our customers. And our customers are certainly NFL fans. We have increased our advertising in the NFL dramatically over the last two or three years, and we are still planning to do more. So today we are at a point to where an announcement like this makes sense for us."

Bill Webster, the vice president of brand management for Sun Life Financial, the company that purchased the naming rights of Sun Life Stadium in the Miami area in 2010, said landing a naming-rights deal is an attractive prospect for companies.

"People are gravitating to the NFL on a number of fronts," said Webster, who negotiated the Sun Life deal. "One, the fan base in terms of the ticket holders is a fairly affluent market. NFL tickets are not cheap, and because of that you have a base of fans, an on-site activation of a demographic that you are looking for.

"The same applies to the on-air mention, and the viewership of the NFL is an attractive demographic both in terms of income and having a gender balance. There are certain sports that are more gender-skewed, but the NFL has a surprisingly appealing balance of men and women from a viewership standpoint. And you are also getting a great opportunity for expanding your marketing plans, and that's what brands like Sun Life and Mercedes are trying to do."

A new name

Dome, Saints and state officials said the new name at the stadium is already in place, although it still requires state legislative approval, which is expected to be a mere formality. Webster said it typically takes some time for the name change to gain traction.

John McCusker/The Times-Picayune
New Orleans Saints Drew Brees was on hand for the announcement of the Mercedes-Benz naming rights deal with the Superdome.
Given that Mercedes-Benz agreed to a 10-year deal, Webster said, it has a chance to grow on longtime visitors of the Dome.

"That's why these deals are a fairly significant investment," he said. "To get enough traction, you need several years before people start calling it by the name that you want it to be called, especially for some place like Louisiana where for so many years it has been called the Superdome.

"With Mercedes-Benz they are invested for the long term because they are confident that New Orleans as a city and the Saints as a franchise are both long-term opportunities for their brand."

In fact, fans will soon see the Mercedes-Benz Superdome illuminated in and around the stadium. Plans calls for the automaker's name to be prominently displayed at each of the main entrances into the stadium, outside the parking garage, at Champions Square, atop the scoreboard, on the stadium's marquee on Poydras Street and hanging from the rafters in the middle of the building.

Dome and Saints officials said the stadium will be fully branded by the time the Saints return home for their next home game Oct. 23 for at night game against the Indianapolis Colts nationally televised by NBC.

There have also been talks of putting the company's name or star logo on the stadium's roof.

Benson said it will all be done tactfully.

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Old 10-05-2011, 11:47 AM   #2
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Makes me sad..
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Old 10-05-2011, 12:26 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by halloween 65 View Post
Makes me sad..
Not me. It takes the taxpayers off the hook too. It will always be the Louisiana Super Dome anyway.

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Old 10-05-2011, 02:32 PM   #4
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It'll always be the Superdome to me.
It's good to have influence outside the U.S. that's not the freakin' Chinese!!!
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Old 10-05-2011, 08:18 PM   #5
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**** them - Its the Superdome.

If they are raising that much money I bet they will lower ticket & concession prices
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Old 10-05-2011, 08:25 PM   #6
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It will always be the Super Dome. Thanks for stepping up Mercedez-Benz. I need to by one now.
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Old 10-05-2011, 09:20 PM   #7
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I brought this idea up a few years ago, and everyone went bat ^%$ crazy, and said it would never happen..... Just wanted to point that out... I think this is the way it is now. Like it or not, it helps put revenue into the dome, that state either can't, or refuses too.
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Old 10-05-2011, 10:17 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by saintfan View Post
Not me. It takes the taxpayers off the hook too. It will always be the Louisiana Super Dome anyway.

The tax payers never should have been on the hook.
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Old 10-05-2011, 10:19 PM   #9
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hey its the cream of the crop, not the daewoo dome.lol. no offence to the daewo owners.
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Old 10-06-2011, 01:05 PM   #10
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I always thought I'd be pissed and/or disappointed if they sold the naming rights to the dome.
Surprisingly, now that it's happened, I don't really give a crap.

Anyway, I was already thinking of ditching the bmw in favor of a Mercedes. Maybe that's why it's not bugging me?
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