Superdome Name Game
The Dome has a lot to offer as it looks for a new name.
Chris Price is an award-winning journalist and public relations principal. When he’s not writing, he’s avid about music, the outdoors, and Saints, Ole Miss and Chelsea football. Price also authors the Friday Sports Column at BizNewOrleans.com.
The Mercedes-Benz Superdome — having such a prestigious name was a great ride for the “Old Gold Lady,” but the 10-year naming rights deal, worth between $50 million and $60 million over the life of the contract, that Mercedes-Benz USA has had with the New Orleans Saints and the state of Louisiana is coming to an end.
Last month, the Saints selected Oak View Group (OVG) — a Los Angeles-based global advisory, development and investment company for the sports and live entertainment industries — to secure naming rights to the stadium before the start of the 2021 NFL season. Dan Griffis, president of OVG Global Partnerships, believes a potential 10-year deal could be worth $10 million annually.
Mercedes-Benz acquired the dome’s naming rights in 2011. It was the first time the stadium, opened in 1975, took on a corporate name. The German automobile manufacturer, known for cutting-edge design and engineering, is also the namesake of the Atlanta Falcons’ Mercedes-Benz Stadium, opened in 2017, but it decided not to renew its deal with the Saints.
Naysayers argue a new deal will be difficult because New Orleans is too small a media market, Louisiana has only two Fortune 500 companies (CenturyLink and Entergy, headquartered in the state), and the region has a small corporate base. But there are a number of major enticements the building has for any organization looking to get into the naming rights game.
While the Superdome is 45 years old, multiple multimillion-dollar renovations post-Hurricane Katrina have kept the arena modern and palatial.
Forbes had high praise for the Dome last month, stating “If there were a Mount Rushmore of professional sporting cathedrals, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in the heart of downtown New Orleans would be on it…. With each passing event, the Superdome adds to its star power, which rivals that of other iconic venues like Madison Square Garden and Wembley Stadium.”
The praise is well deserved. The Superdome is regularly the host venue for the NFL Super Bowl, the College Football Playoffs and National Championship Game, and the NCAA Final Four: it annually hosts the Sugar Bowl, New Orleans Bowl and non-sporting events including Essence Fest, numerous concerts and special events. Experts at the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation say the international media coverage leading up to those major events is worth millions in advertising dollars. There are only a handful of other stadiums in the world that host events of this stature, and the Superdome is one. A new corporate sponsor for the Dome will enjoy being included in coverage of the Final Four in 2022, the Super Bowl in 2024, and potentially additional championship-level events.
Matt Webb, vice president of corporate partnerships for the Saints, who is leading negotiations for the team told Forbes, “The fact that the Superdome is in New Orleans plays a very positive role for any international prospects. The respect and affinity New Orleans has on the international stage as well as the major national and international interest the Superdome gets due to the events we host are pivotal when discussing with an international company.”
As the Superdome’s main tenant, the Saints also serve as a major draw. There are 32 NFL teams, but only a limited number of stadiums – 30 – as the league’s two teams in New York and Los Angeles share fields in their respective cities. As one of the NFL’s winningest teams since 2006, the Saints and the Superdome have been featured in internationally televised prime time games – including five scheduled for the 2020 season alone – multiple times during the regular season and playoffs.
According to Meltwater stats provided by the Saints, NFL stadiums receive an average of 29,270 media mentions per season, while the Superdome receives an average of 40,064 mentions. Even better, the Superdome has a 78% positive favorability rating, which is 51% higher than the average NFL stadium.
In addition, the current $450 million renovations to the stadium are the centerpiece of the deal the team and the state have in place to keep the Saints in the Superdome until 2035.
“The Superdome is one of the top leading economic engines in our state and region,” said Greg Bensel, senior vice president of communications for the Saints and Pelicans. “As we enter the first phase of this new renovation, the building has proven capable over the last few decades to adapt and easily re-engineer itself to keep up, and in most cases lead, in the landscape of new, high-tech stadiums that have come online. And if you couple that with the NFL-leading television ratings that the Saints deliver, then you can see real tangible and quantifiable return on investment for a potential naming rights partner.”