The Atlanta Falcons will share a stadium name with their biggest rival. Mercedes-Benz, which already has its name on the New Orleans Superdome, was announced Monday as the title sponsor of Atlanta's new $1.4 billion stadium.
Falcons owner Arthur Blank said the company signed a 27-year agreement for the name Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which is scheduled to open in 2017. The facility is under construction next door to the Falcons' current home, the Georgia Dome, which will be demolished after the new stadium is completed.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Mercedes-Benz USA President and CEO Steve Cannon called it ''the single biggest marketing deal'' in the company's history. The agreement covers the continued construction period over the next two years and 25 years after the stadium opens.
Mercedes-Benz already has a 10-year agreement to sponsor the Superdome, home of another NFC South team, the New Orleans Saints. But the company announced in January that it was moving its U.S. headquarters from its longtime home in Montvale, New Jersey, to the Atlanta area, where it is constructing an office for some 1,000 employees in suburban Sandy Springs.
''We have a contractual obligation with the Superdome. They've been a great partner,'' Cannon said. ''When we made that deal, we had no idea we would be moving to Atlanta. We will deal with that when the time comes. Obviously, to have two stadiums in the same division, you wouldn't plan it that way. But sometimes opportunities come your way that are too good to turn down.''
The marketing deal with help defray some of the rising costs of the stadium, which will be paid for largely by the Falcons. The city is committed to providing $200 million from hotel tax revenue, with the team picking up the rest. The Falcons already have announced a pricey new seat license plan that has been criticized by many fans, especially with the team coming off two straight losing seasons.
''This is a perfect match,'' Blank said. ''We could not be prouder to put the Mercedes-Benz name on our stadium.''
According to a video rendition of the new facility, Mercedes-Benz will have its name plastered in numerous locations inside and out, including its familiar three-pointed logo on the top of the retractable roof.
''I think we will be the only company in Atlanta whose logo can be seen from the International Space Station,'' Cannon quipped. ''Subtle marketing.''
Two new stadiums costing a total of more than $2 billion under being built in metro Atlanta. The baseball Braves are leaving Turner Field in 2017 for a facility in suburban Cobb County, SunTrust Park. The future of the Turner Field site has not been determined, though Georgia State has proposed to convert it into a downsized stadium for its football program.
Mercedes-Benz also is a title sponsor for three sports arenas in Germany and China.
Cannon said the sponsorship deal with the Falcons' new stadium is important because it also will host a new MLS expansion team, Atlanta United, which begins play in 2017.
''Soccer is obviously the biggest global sport out there,'' he said. ''We're a big global brand. If you want to be where the customers are, soccer is a great platform to do that.''
The new stadium has already been selected to host the Final Four in 2020. The city also is bidding for the 2018 college football championship game, and the NFL's Super Bowl in 2019 or 2020.
In addition, Blank said he hopes the new stadium will be part of a possible U.S. bid for soccer's World Cup in 2026.
''It matters to all of them the name on the building,'' he said. ''Mercedes-Benz is another tremendous draw for that.''
The news conference was also attended by Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, and two of the Falcons' star players, quarterback Matt Ryan and receiver Julio Jones.
Deal was asked if it was blow to the state to give up the Georgia Dome name that has adorned the Falcons' current home since it opened in 1992.
''Don't lose sight that this new stadium all part of the World Congress Center complex,'' he said, referring to Atlanta's massive convention center. Then, giving the facility's full name, he added, ''The GEORGIA World Congress Center complex.''
''If people don't know that, we will give them a map,'' the governor said with a smile. ''This stadium will definitely be associated with the state of Georgia and the city of Atlanta.''