• Company inked $158 million sponsorship for St. Louis venue
  • Deal takes effect only if NFL team plays in proposed stadium

National Car Rental just positioned itself to reap nearly $1 million in marketing -- and it may not cost them a penny.

National Car Rental this week announced a 20-year, $158 million commitment to put its name on a new football stadium in St. Louis, if -- and only if -- an NFL team remains in the city. The St. Louis Rams, owned by billionaire Stan Kroenke, are one of three NFL teams considering a move to Los Angeles, the country’s second-biggest media market. To try to persuade the Rams to stay, Missouri has proposed a new, 64,000-seat venue on the banks of the Mississippi river.

A league-wide vote on whether to relocate a team, or teams, to Southern California, is expected early next year. Until then, though, the promised stadium will be referred to as National Car Rental Field. That brand exposure is worth an estimated $950,000 over the next 12 months, according to Apex Marketing Group Inc., which measures financial impact of social media and press coverage (which includes articles like this one). That’s without a stadium under construction, and without money changing hands.

The St. Louis situation could end up similar to free advertising Farmers Insurance Group received by attaching its name to a $1.2 billion NFL stadium project in L.A. which was never built. Farmers reaped about $6 million in exposure in the four years between when it committed a reported $700 million for the naming rights and when Anschutz Entertainment Group announced the plan was dead.

Pat Farrell, Chief Marketing Officer for St. Louis-based Enterprise Holdings Inc., National’s parent company, said that while he was aware of the unintended benefits reaped by Farmers, it wasn’t a factor in negotiating this deal.

"Free publicity in a short duration is not how we look at this," Farrell said in a telephone interview. "We want something that makes sense for the product from a long-term perspective. We also want our city to have the kind of major-league amenities that come with professional sports."

Kroenke does not. He has purchased a 60-acre plot of land in Inglewood, California, for a stadium that would be the future home of the Rams. Neither his nor the joint proposal by the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers in Carson have naming rights agreements.

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