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Anticipating Superdome’s New Look And New Name, New Orleans Saints Expecting Same Successful Experiences


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Anticipating Superdome’s New Look And New Name, New Orleans Saints Expecting Same Successful Experiences

NEW ORLEANS, LA – APRIL 09: The Mercedes-Benz Superdome is lit up blue on April 09, 2020 in New … [+] Orleans, Louisiana. Landmarks and buildings across the nation are displaying blue lights to show support for health care workers and first responders on the front lines of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. (Photo by Chris…

Anticipating Superdome’s New Look And New Name, New Orleans Saints Expecting Same Successful Experiences

Across U.S., Stadiums, Landmarks Illuminated In Blue To Honor Essential Workers

NEW ORLEANS, LA – APRIL 09: The Mercedes-Benz Superdome is lit up blue on April 09, 2020 in New … [+] Orleans, Louisiana. Landmarks and buildings across the nation are displaying blue lights to show support for health care workers and first responders on the front lines of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

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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. The historical venue is synonymous with iconic sports moments spanning generations, like Muhammad Ali’s 1978 heavyweight championship bout victory and Michael Jordan’s 1982 NCAA championship-winning shot. The Superdome’s cultural importance goes beyond sports, too: It also hosted the largest indoor concert (Rolling Stones, 1981) and Pope John Paul II’s papal address in 1987.

The New Orleans Saints host the best parties in the world at the Superdome ten to 12 times a year, depending on the length of their playoff run. 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.

While much of the sports world remains shut down during the coronavirus pandemic, the Superdome is now open for business in one capacity: There will soon be a new name on the world-renowned arena, to go along with a new game-day experience to ensure the safety of everyone in attendance. Now that Mercedes-Benz has chosen to focus its sponsorship on the new stadium built for the NFC South rival Atlanta Falcons and MLS’s Atlanta United, the Saints have a unique opportunity to offer a business partner.

Mercedes-Benz was the first company to buy the naming rights to the Superdome. Even in these tough economic times, many other brands are likely willing to commit to such an investment, even for the NFL’s smallest market. Becoming the naming rights sponsor for the Superdome is a proven way to connect with an engaged, passionate audience.

The NCAA Final Four is a regular guest at the Superdome, as is the NCAA’s College Football Playoffs. The first NFL Super Bowl that aired in prime time was broadcast live from the Louisiana Superdome.

In a city renowned for its customer service and amenities, fan safety will be paramount, a daily concern regarding the reopening of the Superdome’s doors. With challenging obstacles to normalcy awaiting for the foreseeable future, the public will turn its eyes in even greater numbers to the power of professional sports, in particular the NFL. Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the daily preparation of the Superdome requires extra planning the same way that a championship celebration would.

Where others see problems, New Orleanians find solutions. The Saints have been down this road before. People moved back into their houses in the Central Business District of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. They were not truly home until Steve Gleason flew into their hearts forever. The next Superdome naming rights sponsor will be a part of that community.

Potential suitors for the naming rights need not worry about the age of the building. Although the Louisiana Superdome opened in 1975, continued renovations and planned updates should keep the Superdome on the cutting edge of global sport and entertainment venues for years to come. Those renovations will help ease the pain of any Covid-19 precautions. Social distancing guidelines will be easier in uncluttered concourses. If attendance is limited, the increased capacity of seats will allow most season-ticket holders to at least be in the building to watch the game, doing their best to maintain the home-field advantage that is the pride of the city.

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The naming rights position gives a company the opportunity to align with two brands for the price of one: the Saints and the Superdome, which itself enjoys some of the best fan sentiment scores and garners more media mentions than almost any other stadium. According to stats from Meltwater that the Saints have shown me, NFL stadiums receive an average of 29,270 media mentions per season. The Mercedes-Benz Superdome receives an average of 40,064 mentions (27% higher), and fan sentiment for the “Superdome is 78% positive, which is 51% more than the average NFL stadium.”

In Forbes’ recent ranking of the most passionate fan bases in American sports, the Saints ranked third out of 123 NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL franchises. According to the NFL’s League Observation Program and third-party Expert Review Audits, the New Orleans Saints had the best overall fan experience in the league for the third consecutive season. Teams were judged on Game Entertainment (first), Mobile Ticketing (first), Player Introductions (first), Net Promoter (first), Gameday Staff (second) and Merchandise (seventh). The combination of a rich legacy and marketing power makes the Superdome one of the most attractive sponsorships options for any brand looking for a sport and entertainment property opportunity.

Across multiple conversations, it was obvious the Saints are asking for more than just money for a sign on the stadium. The Saints will ask the next naming rights sponsor to collaborate on targeted efforts impacting the Gulf Coast region, with an emphasis on education, innovation, environmental stewardship, world-class recruitment, sustainable initiatives and more. In return, they offer the next sponsor an opportunity to tell its story to the right stakeholders nationally, increasing interest and purchase intent of stockholders.

An internal memo from the Saints even mentions a regional example, a hurricane party where the brand engages with the community. The idea is the Saints and the naming rights partner host a Hurricane Preparedness Pep Rally at the Superdome. Fans come out to the hurricane season kickoff party, receiving hurricane survival kits in case of a power failure. Ideally, this would not be done during an actual hurricane, but should another storm slide up the channel, the next naming-rights company would have thousands thankful for their survival kits. They would even tell the story of the party where they got the gear to pass the time. Once the power comes back on, so does the Saints game.

Which is another point in the Saints memo: energy. Hurricanes are regional. The Saints want help from a national brand to help create a national impact, from right here in Louisiana. The team’s National Impact Example Idea has the Saints and a “Naming Rights Brand develop a fan engagement area in the Superdome where fans can participate in activities that generate energy. We track how much energy is saved and sent back to the grid.” The plan was to track how much energy was saved between now and the 2024 Super Bowl. The goal was “to create enough energy through our fans efforts, allowing us to offset our footprint.” But Mardi Gras and the Super Bowl overlap in 2024. Now team sources are focusing those efforts on a possible 2025 or 2026 Super Bowl.

This would put New Orleans, the Superdome, and the next Naming Rights Brand to claim rights to creating the first Zero Net Energy Super Bowl. The ten-year rights deal with Mercedes-Benz was “worth between $50 million and $60 million” and “will eliminate the possibility” of the building needing support through state subsidies.

Naming rights marketing initiatives come at a substantial cost but have proven to give a great return on the investment. In looking at companies in similar industries, naming rights holders have seen a growth in stock price after deals. Of 122 teams in four major sports in the US (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL) – 68 stadiums and/or arenas housed teams in which publically traded companies purchased naming rights (55%). Since 1996, Naming Rights Companies (“NRCs”) stocks have cumulatively out-gained the S&P 500 by a significant margin. NRC index is up 580% vs. S&P’s 222% increase. NRC companies beat the market in 13 of 19 calendar years.

Greg Bensel, Senior Vice President of Communications told me, “The Mercedes-Benz Superdome is one of the top leading economic engines in our state and region. It is iconic and recognized globally and is synonymous with hosting world-class sporting events. It has proven capable over the last few decades to be able 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. It serves as a national and international backdrop when New Orleans is highlighted. While all of this is said, it is the powerful impact that the NFL-leading New Orleans Saints television ratings deliver. Tangible, quantifiable return on investment is what makes the building so attractive to a potential naming rights partner.”

People remember their trip to the Superdome, even if they are just tourists passing through on a day with no game. They just wanted to see it. It is now part of the city and the nation’s history. Through hard work and determination, these locals, and these Saints (bless them boys) somehow took a vibrant city and made it even more vibrant. Holding the flag, for the entire world to see, it was the New Orleans Saints that proclaimed the City was back. Citizens around the world love to see it.

Fans who congregate on game days store the memories in their cherished memories file, even if the final score did not favor their team. Their past trips to the Superdome are told to strangers because the building has a global appeal, a positive sentiment. It can stand with other iconic structures like the Eiffel Tower or China’s Great Wall. The Superdome’s history allows it to play ball in the same mythical levels as Yankee Stadium or Old Trafford.

The doldrums of a world with no sports will need investment, an economic driver that doubles as a social aid. With the Mercedes-Benz naming rights deal coming to an end in 2021, the New Orleans Saints will be looking for the second-ever corporate sponsor to decorate the outside of the Superdome. The heartbeat of the region, sporting-wise, is the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The next company that jumps on the marquee will soon realize the benefits of being associated with the lifeblood of the local sporting palace.

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