Falcons introduce Mercedes-Benz Stadium

Shortly after Mercedes-Benz announced in January the move of its U.S. headquarters from New Jersey to metro Atlanta, a team of executives was dispatched to find ways for the company to quickly make its presence known in its new home.

“I sent them out fishing and they came back with a whale,” Steve Cannon, Mercedes-Benz USA president and CEO, said Monday.

The suggestion his staff brought to him led to Monday’s official announcement of the name of the $1.4 billion Falcons stadium under construction downtown: Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The Falcons’ parent company and the German automaker signed a 27-year naming rights deal that will make the Mercedes-Benz brand prominent on the interior and exterior of the stadium, including putting the company’s familiar logo on the top of the retractable roof.

“I think that’s going to make us the only company in Atlanta whose logo can be seen from the International Space Station,” Cannon quipped. “Subtle marketing.”

Both the Falcons and Mercedes-Benz refused to disclose financial terms of the deal.

Cannon called it the largest single marketing deal in Mercedes-Benz history globally. The Falcons previously said they were seeking a deal that would be in the upper range of NFL naming-rights agreements. The largest such deals are a reported $17 million-plus per year for both the New York Giants/Jets’ MetLife Stadium and the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium and $11 million per year for the San Francisco 49ers’ Levi’s Stadium.

“The economics were competitive to what we would have anticipated and to probably what (Mercedes-Benz) would have anticipated as well,” Falcons owner Arthur Blank said. “Deals come together very quickly that way.”

Under their stadium deal with the city of Atlanta and the Georgia World Congress Center Authority, a state agency, the Falcons retain all revenue from naming rights.

“When you put together your financing package for a new stadium like this, the naming rights partner is a significant part,” Blank said.

But he said the deal was about more than dollars, stressing that he wanted to partner with an iconic brand that could keep its name on the building for decades.

“Sometimes you look at a stadium and see a company’s name on it and … you’re not even sure what the company is,” Blank said.

Oddly, Mercedes-Benz now will have its name on two stadiums in the NFC South. The New Orleans Saints, the Falcons’ division rival, play their home games in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome under a 10-year deal signed in 2011.

“When we made that 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.”

Mercedes-Benz’s U.S. headquarters is temporarily housed in an office park in Dunwoody. The company plans to build a new headquarters campus in Sandy Springs near Georgia 400 and Abernathy Road.

Aside from the Falcons and Blanks’s Major League Soccer expansion franchise, Atlanta United, the downtown stadium is expected to host many marquee events. College basketball’s 2020 Final Four already is committed, while bids have been submitted for the January 2018 College Football Playoff championship game and the February 2019 Super Bowl. Such events enhance the stadium’s potential as a national marketing platform.

“It’s a phenomenal regional and national deal,” Cannon said. “When you add the local component with us moving here, this thing really does … make all the sense in the world.”

The 27-year deal will attach Mercedes-Benz’s name to the stadium during the final two years of construction and the first 25 years of the building’s operation. The deal was unanimously approved by the company’s board of directors at a meeting in Germany, Cannon said.

Blank said the Falcons talked with more than 10 companies about the naming rights. The deal was completed in about three months from the time Mercedes-Benz decided to seriously pursue it.

“For us to do a deal like this as quickly as we did meant that all the stars had to align, and they did,” Cannon said.

Staff writer J. Scott Trubey contribued to this article.

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