SBJ/March 20 - 26, 2006/Marketingsponsorship

Anheuser-Busch takes big role in Cardinals’ new football stadium

Anheuser-Busch has signed on as the second principal sponsor of the Arizona Cardinals’ new stadium, scheduled to open in August. America’s top brewer signed a five-year deal, becoming the second “building-level” sponsor of the NFL team’s $370 million stadium.

Under the deal, Anheuser-Busch, a Cardinals sponsor since 1988, gets permanent and electronic signs in the yet-unnamed stadium, along with logo rights, hospitality, TV ads on the team’s preseason games, English and Spanish radio ad inventory on the team’s regular-season broadcasts and title sponsorship to “The Budweiser Big Red Rage” radio show on the local ESPN Radio affiliate.

The color red will be “woven into just about
everything”done to activate the sponsorship.
Anheuser-Busch receives exclusive promotional rights within the alcohol category, and Anheuser-Busch products will be poured and sold in the building.

Anheuser-Busch will underwrite and title sponsor a large area in the south end zone of the stadium that includes a branded pedestrian bridge, an observation platform and an area behind the end zone with seating and hospitality.

The “Red Zone” branding will be camera visible, but Anheuser-Busch’s branding “will not, and will conform to all NFL requirements,” according to Cardinals vice president of sales and marketing Ron Minegar. And given that red is a primary color for both the Cardinals and Anheuser-Busch, “They will be woven into just about everything we do from an activation perspective,” he said.

While Coors has held NFL beer rights since 2002, Anheuser-Busch is not shy about pointing out that it has 28 NFL team sponsorships, purchased at least two spots on every NFL regular-season and playoff game last season and produced 78 different team-specific packaging combinations on 12 million cases of Budweiser and Bud Light last year.

Heinz, the naming rights sponsor for the Pittsburgh Steelers stadium, also leverages a “Red Zone” thematic in its stadium, in which two 35-foot-long ketchup bottle icons “pour” the condiment onto the scoreboard.

Insight was the first sponsor to sign up with the Cardinals’ new building (SBJ, April 25-May 1, 2005), and Minegar said the Cards have three additional “building-level partner” deals close to completion, with a goal of opening the stadium with seven top-level sponsors.

“Clearly, we’re on track there,” he said. Industry sources said Coke was one of the brands close to completing a deal.

Still, with five months to go before the Cards’ new home opens, there is no naming rights partner yet. The same can be said of Glendale Arena, the nearby home of the NHL Phoenix Coyotes, which has 125 dates annually compared to the 30 to 40 dates expected for the Cards’ new facility in its first year. While the Glendale Arena is asking $2 million to $3 million annually for its naming rights, industry chatter has the asking price for the Cardinals’ building naming rights at $8 million a year. That annual figure would be among the priciest ever and well above the 20-year, $121.5 million — or $6 million-plus a year — pledged by Lucas Oil recently to name the Indianapolis Colts’ new home.

Minegar would not talk dollars, but expressed no concern about being five months out of the team’s first preseason game without a deal. “We’re having lots of interesting conversations,” he said. “There’s a good buzz on the stadium and we’re tracking ahead of best-case projections on season tickets and suite sales.”

In its favor, the Cardinals’ much-discussed building has the national presence an NFL venue commands, along with a Fiesta Bowl and the BCS championship game in 2007 and Super Bowl XLII scheduled there for 2008. Among the new NFL stadiums, only the homes of the Washington Redskins and Seattle Seahawks opened without a naming rights partner.

IT WAS 20 YEARS AGO TODAY...: The New York Mets are hoping to compete for a World Series title this year, but the team is devoting an impressive amount of marketing behind celebrating its last championship 20 years ago.

The Mets are commemorating the anniversary all season, with no less than six promotional giveaway days of items associated with the team that beat the Boston Red Sox in a championship that included one of the most memorable World Series games ever.

Among the giveaways are a 1986 replica yearbook, T-shirt, card pack, replica jersey and a possible video or DVD premium.

A team reunion is planned for a game on Aug. 19.

Always searching for the next bobblehead, we’re especially intrigued by a Dunkin’ Donuts-sponsored giveaway on June 16 that will have either ’86 player images or an ’86 championship logo printed on New York State quarters. Walgreens ran a similar program via an MLBPA license last year.

Dunkin’ Donuts, represented by Alliance Marketing Partners, will also offer the imprinted quarters through a retail purchase-with-purchase promo in June.

Meanwhile, the ’86 promotional giveaways game dates have been packaged as an “’86 six pack” of tickets, which the team is close to selling out.

“The ’86 team is really beloved, so we’re looking to strike a balance between the emotional attachment fans had for them and the expectations for this year,” said Dave Howard, executive vice president of business operations for the Mets.

This year’s squad hasn’t played a meaningful game yet, but the early commercial indicators are strong. Howard said that by press time, the Mets will have sold 2 million tickets — close to 25 percent ahead of last year’s pace. He added that sponsorship sales are also up “substantially,” with Champion Mortgage replacing Ameriquest on the outfield wall and replacing Pepsi as the title sponsor of the outfield picnic area. Other big deals were a Pepsi renewal, and new deals with Topps, Reuters, Spike TV and Hankook Tire.

CLEANING UP WITH TOWELS: With a Super Bowl championship as rocket fuel, “Terrible Towel” supplier McArthur Sports is having nearly as good a year as the NFL champion Pittsburgh Steelers.

Gregg McArthur, who heads the Baraboo, Wis., licensee, said that over the past NFL season and through the Feb. 5 Super Bowl win and celebration, he has shipped about 1.6 million towels, and that doesn’t include a pending design order of 200,000 “Five-Time Champion” towels.

During a normal year, McArthur Sports would sell 500,000 to 600,000 “Terrible Towels.”

Terry Lefton can be reached at tlefton@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

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