What’s in a name?
In an emerging media landscape fractured by cord-cutters, iPhones, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it news start-ups and social media, a name you can’t miss means everything.
On Monday, the Atlanta Falcons officially announced the new name of the $1.4 billion downtown dome: Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
For the Falcons, the team hopes for a halo effect from the coveted auto brand along with the bags of cash that will help the franchise pay for its share of the new dome.
For Mercedes-Benz, it’s about branding, too, and reaching customers in metro Atlanta, their new U.S. hub. But Mercedes-Benz USA CEO Steve Cannon said it’s also about reaching customers across the globe.
The media landscape has become so fragmented, Cannon said, it’s difficult to break out a corporate message from the crowd. Or in Cannon’s words: “To have an anchor component of your marketing plan that doesn’t compete with anyone else.”
“In the media world we’re living in deals like this make sense,” Cannon said in an interview after the deal’s formal announcement.
The value of the 27-year deal was not announced, but Cannon said it is the most expensive marketing deal of its type in the storied automaker’s history.
Being the name of an NFL and Major League Soccer stadium that will also play host to concerts, college bowl games, and potentially NCAA Final Fours and future Super Bowls, is one way to grab attention.
Performances and games will attract tens of thousands of spectators. Games and special events could capture millions more on TV or streaming online.
The Mercedes-Benz name will be attached to signs, and mentioned in news articles, advertisements, traffic reports and so much more. The potential number of impressions on the public – just like for SunTrust Banks and the new Atlanta Braves stadium – is astronomical.
Mercedes-Benz can buy ads (and undoubtedly still will) during sporting events, but the company must compete with other brands among dozens of 30-second ads that run over the course of a game, Cannon said.
“This is an iconic venue that is an exclusive Mercedes-Benz brand-scape,” Cannon said.
The Mercedes name already graces the Superdome in New Orleans – home of the rival Saints – and on an arena in Shanghai, one of the largest cities in China, the world’s second-biggest economy.
Talks between the Falcons and Mercedes started shortly after the German automaker announced the move of its U.S. division from New Jersey to metro Atlanta in January.
But there were no plans then to put the company’s three-pointed star logo atop the new Falcons stadium. Nothing like that was on their radar.
Cannon said he challenged his staff to find opportunities to put his company’s name in front of the world.
“I sent them out fishing,” Cannon said, “and they came back with a whale.”
Still, with the New Orleans stadium just a few states away and in the NFC South, it’s creates an odd situation.
“When we made (the Saints) deal, we had no idea we were going to move to Atlanta, had no idea all of this was in our future,” Cannon said. “We will deal with that when the time comes.
“Obviously, having two stadiums in the same division — you wouldn’t plan it that way. But sometimes opportunities come in a way that is just too good to turn down.”
Though it might have been too good to turn down, the scope of the undertaking – and undoubtedly the cost – was huge.
“They made me a little uncomfortable,” Cannon said of his executive team, “but I’ve challenged them to make me a little uncomfortable.”
The new naming rights deal is only one of several big undertakings for the company.
The Mercedes USA office is currently based in an office park in Dunwoody. A new $93 million headquarters campus is planned for Sandy Springs near the Ga. 400 and Abernathy Road interchange.
When Mercedes announced U.S. HQ move earlier this year, Cannon said the company would become an active corporate citizen in its new home. Mercedes-Benz, he said, would make itself part of the fabric of Atlanta-area business.
He wasn’t kidding.