Mercedes-Benz Does Stadium Kick-Off In Atlanta

Mercedes-Benz U.S.A. (MBUSA), which for four years has had its name on the Superdome in New Orleans, has nabbed rights to the big football venue in its new hometown. 

The automaker has inked a deal, brokered by AMB Sports & Entertainment, that makes it naming partner of the new Atlanta stadium, now officially Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Once it is completed in 2017, the stadium will house the Falcons NFL team and the Atlanta United MLS team. 

The venue is being built in Atlanta's downtown tourist and entertainment district, a district that didn't exist when I went to college there back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, and the most famous record store on Earth was probably the major attraction, along with the Varsity, a burger place non pareil, which is still there, uphill from Georgia Tech.   

The new deal includes official naming rights and other partnership benefits, according to the parties involved. What's being said now is that the Mercedes-Benz brand will be prominent inside and outside the building. As in New Orleans, there will be a three-pointed star on the roof. And MB gets branding in lots of other areas.

It makes obvious sense for MBUSA. The automaker, which has the stadium through 2042, decamped Montvale, N.J., for the land of peach trees and cola this year. It should have its name on more than its new building. And Mercedes-Benz’ U.S. operation did quite well in New Orleans. The timing was excellent. They’d signed that deal in 2011, and activated on it around when Super Bowl XLVII was held there in 2013. And right about that time they launched one of their most important cars in years: the CLA, meant to get younger buyers into the brand. 

One might argue, reasonably, “Why would a luxury brand sponsor a stadium instead of a more brand-appropriate venue like, say, tennis?” Well, they already have tennis’ big U.S. event over at Flushing, Queens. Once again, they will be “Official Vehicle” of the U.S. Open and the Presenting Sponsor of the U.S. Open Men’s Singles Championship, all of which kicks off next week. 

But the Atlanta deal, actually Mercedes-Benz’ fourth stadium naming exercise (besides the Crescent City, it also has Mercedes-Benz Arena in Stuttgart and another one in Shanghai), also makes sense because the visibility is huge. A lot of people watch NFL, obviously, and when a game is broadcast from the stadium, everyone will see the name. 

Wasted eyeballs? No, because the automaker has for several years been working to change its image and products to one of a performance luxury brand, with critically important gateway vehicles like the CLA and the recently launched GLA crossover. Long gone are the days when MB was your grand-uncle the lawyer's client-mobile, and the fairly awful days when parent Daimler was saddled with Chrysler, and Mercedes-Benz engineers were rattling their micrometers. Football reaches a new, younger crowd and a lot of prospective move-up buyers.

There was a press conference on the deal on Monday in Atlanta, held by Arthur Blank, who owns the Falcons and Atlanta United. He said, “Mercedes-Benz fits all of the criteria we set out in finding a naming rights partner,” plus the usual encomia about how Mercedes-Benz and the Falcons have the same DNA, or something of that nature. “And they are a company that embraces the communities in which they do business.” That's probably okay to say. In New Orleans, Mercedes-Benz did a lot locally around community development, par for the course with local-market initiatives. 

Also on hand, besides MBUSA’s irrepressible president and CEO, Steve Cannon, who was instrumental in the New Orleans deal, were Georgia Gove. Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. Do they get season tickets?

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