Retail Front

It's Now the Mercedes-Benz Superdome

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mercedes-foto.jpgThe Superdome, home of the NFL’s New Orleans Saints, becomes the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, one of only a few major sports facilities bearing an auto maker’s name.

A lot of banks buy naming rights at such venues. Among them: Citi Field in New York, Comerica Park in Detroit and Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC. Bankers seem to like sports.

Some pro sports places bear beer names, such as Miller Park in Milwaukee, Coors Field in Denver and Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

Baseball at first balked at a ballpark named for a beer. In the 1950s, Anheuser-Busch wanted to call a field Budweiser Stadium, after its main brew. The baseball commissioner said no to that, but yes to the Busch name. Later, the brewery launched Busch beer.

Considering all the auto brands, more than 40, car makers haven’t played the stadium name game much in North America.

Ford Field is home to the NFL’s Detroit Lions. That figures; the Ford family owns the team. Henry Ford would do back flips in his grave if it were General Motors Field.

The only other major-league sports facilities with automotive monikers are the Honda Center and GM Center, home ice for the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks and Vancouver Canucks, respectively.

But now, a German luxury car company will put its name on the Superdome, a place that symbolized American human deprivation after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005.

Thousands of flood victims, fleeing for their lives, ended up seeking refuge at the 73,000-seat stadium. Since that disaster, the building has undergone a 6-year, $332 million renovation, “an incredible transformation,” says Mercedes-Benz USA CEO Ernst Lieb.

Neither he nor Saints owner Tom Benson say how much Mercedes is paying for the 10-year right to put its name on the state of Louisiana-owned facility.

“We feel strongly it was essential that if we were to offer the name of our building to a company, it would be one that all of our fans and the state of Louisiana would be proud of,” Benson says.

Incidentally, he owns Mercedes dealerships in New Orleans and San Antonio.

Naming stadiums and arenas for businesses goes way back. Boston’s iconic Fenway Park supposedly took its name from the original owner’s land firm, Fenway Realty.

It can work out bad for business. The Houston Astros’ home turf was Enron Field until 2001, when the infamous energy firm sank in a titanic corporate scandal.

The place was renamed Minute Maid Park, after the orange-juice brand. But some cynics kept the old name alive. They dubbed it “The Field Formerly Known as Enron.”

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Steve Finlay is the editor of WardsAuto Dealer Business magazine and a senior editor for WardsAuto.com. His journalism career started 42 years ago as a crime reporter. A Michigan native, he likes...

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Jim Ziegler, president of Ziegler Supersystems, is a trainer, commentator and public speaker on dealership issues.
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