SBJ/June 23 - 29, 2003/This Weeks Issue

Broad control of category helps sway Citizens

Editor's note: This story is revised from the print edition.

Rendering of the Phillies’ new Citizens Bank Park, scheduled to open in April

Citizens Bank officials were attracted to the extensive exclusivity in the financial services category and the use of Philadelphia Phillies-controlled media services in signing a 25-year, $95 million deal for naming rights to the team's new ballpark.

The total dollar figure is tops among the four Major League Baseball franchises with banks as their venue naming-rights sponsor and second in the bigs only to the 28-year, $170 million contract at Minute Maid Park in Houston.

Mike Reisman of Velocity Sports & Entertainment, representing Citizens Bank, and Jeff Knapple of Envision, working on behalf of the Phillies, brokered the deal.

The $458 million Citizens Bank Park will open in April, across the street from new Lincoln Financial Field (Eagles) and near First Union Center (Flyers, Sixers), soon to be changed to Wachovia Center after First Union Bank merged with Wachovia and took the Wachovia name.

The media portion of the deal is worth $37.5 million over the next quarter-century. Citizens Bank will be the only financial services advertiser during Phillies games on Comcast and UPN telecasts and WPEN-AM broadcasts.

Citizens Bank, owned by Royal Bank of Scotland, the fifth-largest financial entity in the world, started two years ago with a basic sponsorship as the team's official bank, providing giveaways like the Phillie Phanatic piggy bank.

Now, in addition to having its name all over the ballpark, including a giant neon replica of the Liberty Bell, Citizens has exclusives on retail, small business and commercial banking, mortgage lending and debit cards and first option on credit cards should team partner First USA (MasterCard) opt out.

"It was clear from my perspective that this was a unique opportunity," said Hal Tolvin, executive VP of Citizens Financial Group. He worked for Shawmut Bank when negotiating arena naming rights in 1994 for Boston's Shawmut Center, which quickly became the FleetCenter after one bank acquired the other.

"The Phillies control the stadium, team and media. What I sensed right away is that the Phillies were interested in a long-term partner rather than having someone just write a check and move on," Tolvin said.

Citizens Bank fits that role, as it strives to stay "top of mind," in Tolvin's words, by continuing to expand its reach in Philadelphia after purchasing Mellon Bank for $2.1 billion in 2001.

"We've acquired 20 banks in 10 years and aim to be a very significant player in the Philadelphia market. We're not No. 1 but intend to be," he said.

Wachovia/First Union is the market leader in FDIC-insured deposits. Citizens Bank and PNC are close behind.

Dave Buck, Phillies VP of advertising sales, said: "There is tremendous value for Citizens Bank because we control all radio and TV, which few teams do. We made that loud and clear from the beginning that they would not have to go elsewhere" for media buys.

What was also loud and clear but unspoken at the time was that other financial institutions were interested in title sponsorship, which Buck confirmed without disclosing names. Citizens Bank and the Phillies started serious discussions in February.

"There were a couple other banks in the mix as well, which may have spurred the deal on because there were competitors involved. That helps [expedite] the process," said Front Row Marketing's Dick Sherwood, a Philadelphia-based naming-rights consultant.

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