August 25th, 2011
MetLife purchases naming rights to Jets-Giants stadium
The New York Times
One after another, MetLife was asked to buy stadium and naming rights. And each time, it said no.
Nothing was better, year after year, than having the MetLife blimp, Snoopy 1, floating above major sports events. Nothing produced a better return on investment.
“The blimp is a flexible, roving stadium,” said Beth Hirschhorn, MetLife’s chief marketing officer, “which is why it was difficult for any property to compare.”
MetLife made a big leap beyond Peanuts characters and airship advertising a few years ago when it became one of four cornerstone partners at New Meadowlands Stadium. The home of the Jets and the Giants was still in blueprints at the time, but Hirschhorn thought that owning the equivalent of marketing real estate at the stadium was worth the life insurer’s investment of $7 million to $8 million a year.
But on Tuesday, MetLife took the next step and it acquired the name of the stadium.
MetLife Stadium joins a region populated by CitiField, Prudential Center and Red Bull Arena. Its deal is for 25 years and is worth $17 million to $20 million annually.
The money will be split between the Giants and the Jets, who financed construction of the stadium.
Why would a widely recognized insurer need to have its name on the stadium?
Three reasons, Hirschhorn said: for the media exposure that a stadium in the New York market with two N.F.L. teams and a Super Bowl in 2014 can bring; for the connection that it will have with fans; and for the dynamism that football brings to the stodgy world of life insurance.
“MetLife has near ubiquitous brand awareness,” Hirschhorn said. “This helps raise our top of mindedness.”
The Giants and the Jets have searched for nearly three years to find a company to buy the stadium’s naming rights since almost selling them to Allianz, a German insurer, for more than MetLife is paying. After a report in The New York Times about Allianz’s ties to the Third Reich, the advanced talks fell apart.
Then the recession hit, which dampened the naming-rights market and forced teams to bide their time in hopes that a corporation would pay what they were charging.
“We reached out to hundreds of companies,” said John Brody, principal of global sales and business development at the Wasserman Media Group, which helped the teams find a buyer for the stadium name. “MetLife is a company with the ideals the teams desired.”
Among the other companies solicited beside MetLife were the stadium’s other cornerstone partners: Bud Light, Verizon and Pepsi.
Steve Tisch, the chairman of the Giants, said, “I can’t honestly remember a company that we got to first base with” until MetLife.
The deal was signed in time for announcers to start calling it MetLife Stadium for Saturday night’s Jets-Giants game, but it will be a few weeks until the four giant illuminated signs outside the stadium will be erected. And at MetLife’s section of the stadium, a statue of Lucy Van Pelt trying to throw a pass.