Mercedes Will Lend Its Brand to the Superdome

Will brand be able to shake ghost of Katrina?

Brands have long understood the value of slapping their names on sports arenas (Wrigley’s gum paid to name Chicago’s Wrigley Field as far back as 1926). But the latest entrant to the stadium name gang is likely to raise a few eyebrows.

Mercedes-Benz USA has just announced that it will brand the New Orleans Superdome as part of a 10-year sponsorship agreement with the National Football League’s Saints. Yes, that Superdome—better known as the squalid dumping ground for people left homeless by Hurricane Katrina five years ago. It’s a name that still conjures up those images.

Mercedes vp of marketing Steve Cannon concedes the point, but maintains that “enough time has passed—and America loves a comeback story.” Plus, he notes, “The stadium is one of the most iconic in the United States, which makes this a compelling national buy.”

No doubt. But pairing a luxury name like Mercedes with a football stadium raises another question. Does it make sense to advertise to millions of fans with no hope of affording the car?

Apparently, Mercedes is concerned that too many people assume the car is out of reach.

“It’s a brand that can often [feel] unapproachable,” Cannon says. “It’s too far away. We want to bring it closer.”

—with Robert Klara