MetLife Inc. (MET) agreed to place its name on the National Football League home of the New York Giants and Jets in a 25-year agreement that may be among the biggest stadium-rights deals in U.S. sports.
MetLife, the biggest U.S. life insurer and known for its “Snoopy” cartoon-dog logo, became the primary naming-rights partner of the only stadium in the U.S.’s most-popular sport shared by two teams and the home of the 2014 Super Bowl in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
The venue will be known as MetLife Stadium. The agreement also makes the company the official insurer of the Giants, Jets and the building, and provides the company with 120,000 square feet of promotional space. Its name will be displayed on four signs outside the stadium.
“MetLife secures the naming rights to a world-class venue that will extend the reach of our brand to a level unmatched in the industry,” Steven Kandarian, chief executive officer of MetLife, said in a press conference at the stadium. “And the Jets and Giants gain a sponsor with a history of financial strength and brand that is strong.”
Kandarian said that the lure of a Super Bowl was an added benefit. Without the championship game, he said, MetLife still would have done the deal “but perhaps for a different price.”
Financial details of the agreement weren’t disclosed in the release. The rights package would be around $400 million, less than the record $23.3 million a year Farmers Insurance Group said it would pay Anschutz Entertainment Group to name a proposed NFL stadium in Los Angeles, according to a person familiar with the New Jersey contract who was granted anonymity because details of the deal aren’t being released.
It also would be less than Citigroup Inc. (C)’s deal to name the New York Mets’ Citi Field baseball stadium in Queens, New York, and Barclays Plc (BARC)’s agreement for Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, the home court of the National Basketball Association’s Nets starting in September 2012.
“That NFL platform is very desirable,” Chuck Costigan, founder of Denver-based Costigan & Associates sponsorship and naming-rights analysts, said in a telephone interview. “Even more so when you double it with two teams. That market cannot be overstated.”
The insurance industry has begun to spend heavily on advertising, said John Brody, a principal at Wasserman Media Group, which brokered the agreement for the football teams.
“This is an opportunity to break apart from the clutter out there,” he said in a telephone interview.
MetLife serves 90 million customers in more than 60 countries, according to the release. The company has leading market positions in the U.S., Japan, Latin America, Asia Pacific, Europe and the Middle East, and its international operations may benefit from any overseas expansion of the NFL, Costigan said.
“In time, I would expect the NFL to grow internationally,” he said. “The NFL has made its intention clear to move into more of an international product.”
MetLife already is one of four so-called cornerstone partners in the $1.6 billion stadium that opened last year, paying about $7 million for in-stadium branding. MetLife assets will stay in the corner until it is sold.
The deal means the company’s brand will figure prominently in the broadcast of the 2014 Super Bowl, which has set viewership records the past four years. The championship game in February drew an average of 111 million viewers, making it the most-watched program in U.S. history.
The stadium is about nine miles west of MetLife’s headquarters on Park Avenue in Manhattan and 10 miles north of the main offices of Prudential Financial Inc., the insurer’s biggest rival, in Newark, New Jersey.
MetLife promotes its brand in the U.S. to attract consumers of products ranging from life insurance and savings products to home equity-backed loans.
“The company’s huge presence and influence in our area is a natural fit for this stadium, and the strength, stability and quality of MetLife matches perfectly with the characteristics that the Giants try to achieve in all aspects of our operations,” Giants co-owner John Mara said at the news conference.
The 83,000-seat venue has been known as New Meadowlands Stadium since opening in 2010. Besides NFL games, it has staged soccer, college and high school football games, concerts, lacrosse and other events.
Officials of New Meadowlands Stadium said in September 2008 that they would end talks with Europe’s biggest insurer, Allianz SE, after protests by Jewish groups including the Anti- Defamation League that the company once insured Auschwitz.
“Holocaust survivors are relieved that naming rights to the stadium in the Meadowlands will now not cause offense to those who suffered and were plundered in the Nazi era,” Elan Steinberg, vice president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendents, said in an e-mailed statement Aug. 19.
MetLife Chairman Robert Henrikson, whose tenure as chief executive officer ended in May, told investors in December that five years ago he turned down an opportunity to put MetLife’s name on “a big sports enterprise.” Since then, the company has increased spending on advertising and promotion of its Snoopy logo. The white and black dog, from Charles Schulz’s “Peanuts” comic strip, appears on MetLife’s home page and its blimp.
The company is a sponsor of the U.S. PGA tour and its branded blimps appear at golf tournaments and other sports events.
“People love Snoopy places we thought they might not like Snoopy at all,” Henrikson said in a May conference call with analysts. “Do the Japanese love the MetLife blimp doing the golf tournaments in Japan? You betcha.”
MetLife rose $1.07 to $31.63 in New York Stock Exchange trading at 4 p.m.
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