The country's largest bank last week signed on as a marketing partner and naming-rights holder to the new baseball stadium, scheduled to open in 2009 and be called Citi Field. The deal was for an unprecedented $20 million a year for 20 years, with another 15-year option after that.
But why risk angering fans who wanted the stadium named after Jackie Robinson and traditionalists who insist they'll keep calling it Shea Stadium, regardless of what corporation hangs its shingle above the entrances?
While the Mets are knocking in RBIs, Citigroup is counting on ROI.
'Enormous amount of impressions'
"They're going to get an enormous amount of impressions out of this deal," said Claire Rosenzweig, president of the Promotion Marketing Association. "Now, certainly they'll have to confront issues with what's the balance here between those impressions and what the consumer wants to see before being overloaded, but I would still expect to see a great amount of cross-promotion."
So, what's in a name? In addition to the naming rights, there will be an extensive brand presence at the new ballpark (signage throughout the venue on walls, scoreboards, video programming, ATMs, etc.), as well as integration into Mets TV, print, radio, online media (including Mets.com and the Spanish-language LosMets.com), Mets publications and publicity materials, and on outdoor marquees at Citi Field.
Citigroup also plans to use the Mets' popularity in Japan and Latin America-the team has a heavy concentration of Latino players-to raise awareness for the bank's branches and credit cards in those regions.
Charles Prince, chairman-CEO of Citigroup, called the agreement "an unprecedented platform to promote our world-class brand, enhance our relationships with current clients, and attract new clients in our headquarters city and a strategically important market."
Not only does the Citi agreement blow away the previous biggest deal -- Reliant Energy's 30-year, $300 million deal for the Houston Texans' stadium -- but it bodes well for the future in a category that had slowed considerably since 2003, when Reliant signed its deal and Bank of America (Charlotte, N.C.) and Lincoln Financial Group (Philadelphia) signed $7 million yearly deals for stadium naming rights.
"There was a feeling that a lot of these deals were going by the wayside," said Robert Tuchman, president-CEO of TSE Sports & Entertainment, New York. "There was a lot of negative publicity on some, such as Enron, and the feeling was that a lot of these deals weren't going to be able to command a certain amount of money."
"It's good news for everyone who is in this business," said Frank Vuono, partner of 16W Marketing, East Rutherford, N.J., which is negotiating naming rights for the Superdome in New Orleans. In addition to the Superdome, naming rights are up for grabs for the new hockey arena in Newark, N.J., for the New Jersey Devils and a proposed football stadium further up the Jersey Turnpike for the New York Jets and Giants.