• German carmaker now sponsors two NFL stadiums in same division
  • New Orleans Superdome pact with Mercedes runs through 2021

Mercedes-Benz doesn’t have an option to end its naming rights agreement with the New Orleans Superdome and will now sponsor two National Football League teams in the same division.

Steve Cannon, chief executive officer of Mercedes-Benz USA, said the company’s contract with the New Orleans Saints, Atlanta’s NFC South division rival, runs through 2021 and isn’t renegotiable.

“We’re going to deliver on that contract in good faith,” Cannon said Monday in an interview in Atlanta, where the German luxury carmaker was unveiled as the naming rights sponsor of the city’s new $1.5 billion downtown stadium.
“It’s not like we’re going to head for the hills just because we did this deal. There’s room enough for us to play that deal through to its logical conclusion and then we’ll evaluate it.”

In four years since Mercedes-Benz took over as the Superdome’s sponsor, the venue has hosted college basketball’s Final Four championship, college football’s title game and the NFL’s Super Bowl.

“They get a lot of big events, so we’re very happy with how our partnership has played out,” Cannon said. “We didn’t know what we didn’t know back then. Obviously, having two stadiums is not something we would do normally.”

27-Year Deal

Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz signed a 27-year deal to sponsor the new 65,000-seat stadium being built for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons and Major League Soccer’s Atlanta United. The stadium is under construction next to Atlanta’s 23-year-old Georgia Dome and is scheduled to open in 2017.

Neither Cannon nor Falcons owner Arthur Blank disclosed financial terms of the agreement. Cannon said the pact is the single largest marketing agreement in the world for Mercedes, which also sponsors Mercedes-Benz Arena in Stuttgart, Germany.

Levi Strauss & Co. is paying $220 million over 20 years for the new home of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers that opened last season.

Mercedes-Benz recently moved its U.S. headquarters to a temporary facility in Atlanta from Montvale, New Jersey, while new headquarters are built in Sandy Springs, Georgia. The company’s new Atlanta-area home is to be completed in early 2018, the company said.

Cannon said Saints owner Tom Benson was supportive of the company’s desire to sign on with the Falcons while also continuing with the Saints agreement.

“They understood,” Cannon said. “This is an amazing stadium and it’s now our corporate backyard. When you build a stadium like this you become a destination venue.”

Final Four

The new Atlanta stadium is scheduled to host the 2020 men’s Final Four and is bidding to host future Super Bowls and college football championship games.

Asked if it bothers him to share a sponsor with the Saints, a team that has beaten the Falcons in 13 of their past 18 meetings, Blank shrugged.

“Not at all,” said Blank, who co-founded Home Depot Inc. in 1978. “I’ve got a great relationship with Tom Benson. Obviously on the field we’re extraordinarily competitive. They made a commitment to New Orleans and the Superdome at a difficult time. I’m sure they fulfill it and then they’ll have to make a decision when that agreement is up.”

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