Mercedes Benz putting its name on new Atlanta football and soccer stadium

By Maria Saporta

Mercedes Benz and the AMB Sports & Entertainment (owner of the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United) announced a 27-year naming rights agreement Monday morning.

But neither side disclosed the dollar value of the deal – which will extend through 2042 – two years between now and when the stadium opens in 2017 plus 25 years.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank and Stephen Cannon, president and CEO of Mercedes Benz USA attended the announcement and proclaimed it as a coming together of two great brands.

Mercedes Benz stadium

Gov. Nathan Deal, Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, Mercedes Benz USA CEO Stephen Cannon and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed at Monday’s press conference (Photos by Maria Saporta)

Blank described the first time he met Cannon last October. The Metro Atlanta Chamber had asked him to meet with executives of a Fortune 50 company that was considering moving its U.S. headquarters to Atlanta. They met at the New Atlanta Stadium Preview Center on Northside Parkway, coincidentally the same location as Monday’s press conference.

Without knowing for sure who he was talking to, Blank jokingly told Cannon: “If you are interested, you can put your name on our building.”

At the time, Cannon mentioned that the company already had its name on a sports building (the Super Dome in New Orleans) – again not disclosing his company.

A few months later, Mercedes Benz announced it was moving its U.S. headquarters to Atlanta – and that it would be building a new headquarters in Sandy Springs.

Blank and Cannon met again in February, and the idea of naming rights was discussed. Mercedes Benz also talked to the Atlanta Braves and the Atlanta Hawks.

Mercedes Benz stadium

Arthur Blank reaches out to hug Stephen Cannon at the naming rights announcement

But Cannon said he quickly zeroed in on the new Atlanta stadium.

“It is such an iconic building – one that is unique among stadiums,” Cannon said Monday. “The fact that it is in a downtown location is very important to us. We wanted to be part of the fabric of the community. And you get a stadium that has football, soccer and other major events.”

Cannon also said the negotiations on the naming rights occurred in record time – the negotiations began in earnest about two months ago.

“It is the single biggest deal we have done in the United States,” Cannon said.

Later Cannon said: “These are hard deals to put together. There are big dollar signs attached to it. There was a lot of selling in our organization. But everybody saw the virtue of us doing this.”

Blank said that the Atlanta Falcons organization spoke to “something north of 10” companies interested in the naming rights of the new stadium. “It was competitive,” Blank said.

Mercedes stadium

Arthur Blank and Stephen Cannon stand next to a new Mercedes Benz

Mercedes Benz ended up winning the name because of a combination of “the brand and the economics,” said Blank, who described how the two entities were culturally aligned. “They were great to work with. They don’t sponsor a lot, but what they do sponsor, they do it with quality.”

Cannon did say that Mercedes Benz is in the middle of a 10-year deal with the Super Dome, and that when that naming rights agreement was made, the company had no idea it would be moving its headquarters to Atlanta or that it might have an opportunity to put its name on a new Atlanta stadium.

“Obviously having two stadiums in the same division, you wouldn’t plan it that way,” said Cannon, who added that he was thrilled that the company would be associated with a stadium offering both football and soccer – which is growing in popularity in the United States and is the most popular international sport.

The new stadium will replace the Georgia Dome, which opened nearly 25 years ago. Asked if he would miss having the Georgia name on the new stadium, Gov. Deal said that the facility was part of the Georgia World Congress Center.

“I think there certainly will be adequate reason for them to know that this is in the state of Georgia and the City of Atlanta,” Deal said. “If they don’t know, we will gladly give them a map.”

Later the governor said that Mercedes Benz decision to put its name on the stadium is yet one more example that Georgia is being recognized as a great place to do business.”

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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