The cynical will look at the announcement of the new stadium naming rights deal for the Meadowlands with Met Life and wonder when their premiums will go up. Competitors in the insurance field will look at it and wonder what it will cost them in exposure. Sports marketers will look at the name looming over the Meadowlands and smile. In the end, why does Met Life make sense for the brand and the tenants of the stadium? There are a few reasons.
Location. Unlike many stadiums in urban areas, or those in the distance off of major thoroughfares, the new Meadowlands complex sits in one of the busiest corners anywhere in the world. Not only on the ground, where the New Jersey Turnpike and various other roads bring commuters and travelers by, many of whom are sitting in traffic staring at the new stadium, but even from the air, where planes leaving and arriving at nearby Newark-Liberty Airport will see the name and a Snoopy of two splashed outside the Stadium. For a brand that spends millions in traditional advertising, that type of subliminal and constant exposure is a huge added perk.
Reinforcement. Met Life had already tried and enjoyed their first year experience as a cornerstone sponsor of the Stadium, which gave them access to some levels of fan engagement and hospitality for clients and consumers. Their initial experience showed that the two chief tenants, the Jets and the Giants, could deliver on promises as brand partners, and gave a look inside to Met Life as to what the possibilities would be for a longer term sponsorship. Testing the waters in a challenged environment is key. Now if the original proposed stadium name buyer, the German company Allianz would have come in, it would have been a different play as Allianz tries to grow in the American marketplace. First time in, lots of new experiences. With Met Life, the company knows what works, knows the teams and those responsible for brand decisions, and can grow a partnership much faster.
Investment for the long term. Unlike some of the early naming rights deals that have shifted with sales of company’s over time, especially banks and brands, met Life is a buyer of brands not a seller. The 25 year investment in the property sends a strong message to the consumer and the business world that Met Life is again invested in their business, long term financial growth, nit a hit and miss buy. Investments and growth for the consumer are what Met Life is all about, and this partnership reinforces that.
Unencumbered category. If a consumer brand, even one like wireless carrier Verizon, comes in and take the naming rights for the Stadium, a critical category in the marketplace for the teams and the stadium leaves the fold. Consumer goods, such as the Pepsi Center in Denver, become tricky with the media and can become conflicted when large scale events like the Super Bowl come to town. What if the league pours Coke, or the Jets have a deal with a snack food or a beer that is conflicted? Met Life, as insurance and some financial services, is a much more managable name category than a company which may be bought and sold and suffer a name change into the future.
First in. One of the great debates among media for years has been where and when to properly use the brand name of a stadium. The ever-changing world of sponsorships has made it quite an issue in places like Philly and Boston, where arenas have changed names constantly when banks that have had naming rights deals leave the marketplace. However by being first, and hopefully last, in the naming rights game for the Stadium, Met Life has a stickiness with the media that will make the transition very easy. That brand exposure in the media, like on the outside of the stadium, is invaluable in a deal such as this one.
So what does this all mean for the consumer? Not much on the negative side. if you are shopping for a new carrier, hopefully there is more brand recognition. if you already work with Met Life, maybe it means extra perks. If you are a casual fan, the amount of promotion Met Life already does with their sports sponsorships is staggering, so this will add to the potential pot. More importantly for New Jersey, it is a positive sign of investment by a major brand in the economy, which hopefully lead to better things in the future, regardless of how Big Blue or The Green and White do on the field. A nice win for all involved.