A louvered fortress rooted in the swamp grass and asphalt of New Jersey’s Meadowlands, MetLife Stadium is as bluff and unassuming as its surroundings. Home to New York’s dual NFL franchises, the Giants and the Jets, the $1.6 billion facility is a monument to compromise; not only does it pull off the neat trick of serving two very distinct fan bases, but it also offers a balance between self-determination and the imperatives of corporate sponsorship.
As befits the cooperative efforts of its two leaseholders, the 82,500-seat MetLife Stadium fuses the minimalist steel-and-stone aesthetic of the old-guard Giants with the Jets’ decidedly more modernist inclinations. Heralding the anonymous skyscrapers on the other side of the Hudson, the glass and aluminum façade drapes the structure in a sort of blanket of neutrality before receding at four corner gates that are the entrenched domain of the facility’s principal brand sponsors: MetLife, Bud Light, Pepsi and Verizon.
Mere hours after kicker Lawrence Tynes’ 31-yard overtime field goal sent the Giants to Super Bowl XLVI, marketing reps from MetLife and the facility’s other three major brand partners gathered for an exclusive sit-down in the stadium’s Commissioner’s Club to talk about the inner workings of the stadium-rights business.
After a four-year slumber, the corporate branding of sports venues is showing signs of life. Fueled by a resurgent financial services category, a number of big-ticket sponsorships have gone up for bid—and one of the biggest is this one.
The very architecture of MetLife Stadium reflects the abiding bond between sports venues and corporate sponsors. As Thad Sheely, Jets evp, stadium development and finance, notes, the structure was designed from the bowl out, a process that facilitated the establishment of the so-called “cornerstone partnership” model.
“The idea of less is more really appealed to both teams,” says Sheely. “At the earliest planning stages, we thought of this as an exclusive platform for a limited number of partners, and everything came together from there.”
MetLife was the first sponsor to claim a corner of the building, which opened in 2010. Then last August, the insurance company elected to go all in, signing a 25-year naming-rights deal, brokered by Wasserman Media Group, reportedly worth $425 million. Prior to the christening of the facility as MetLife Stadium, the company was paying some $7 million a year for its sponsorship.
Sponsorship dollars are split between the Giants and Jets, which privately financed the construction of the stadium.
While naming-rights opportunities have come and gone, MetLife had not previously felt the need to slap its name on the side of a stadium. After all, the company already enjoyed a unique perspective on sporting events, thanks to its fleet of Snoopy blimps.
“We had seen every sports deal out there,” says Beth Hirschhorn, MetLife evp, global brand, marketing and communications. “But when we looked at this property, combined with the power of the NFL, four words came to mind: This one is different.”
The impact was virtually instantaneous. According to a Navigate Marketing study that tracked brand impressions in the first two nationally televised Giants and Jets home games this season, the on-screen exposure alone affords MetLife unparalleled value. Taken together, the Sept. 11 Cowboys-Giants broadcast on NBC’s Sunday Night Football and the Sept. 19 Rams-Giants matchup on ESPN’s Monday Night Football earned MetLife some 14-and-a-half minutes of visibility, the equivalent of 29 30-second spots. Navigate president AJ Maestas values the exposure at some $10 million.
“The visibility and placement of MetLife’s sponsor signage at MetLife Stadium is the best we have seen and measured in the NFL, and among the best in all of sport,” Maestas says. “The exposure value of the naming-rights signage is probably more than most teams will generate for their naming-rights partners all season.”