Super Bowl 2010

Super Bowl Host Stadium Gets Naming Rights Deal

Sun Life Financial Readies Signage in Time for Big Game in Miami

By Published on .

CHICAGO ( -- Here's an unusual way to grab some Super Sunday media impressions: Slap your brand on the stadium the big game is being played in less than a month before kickoff.

Sun Life Financial's permanent signage will be up in time for next weekend's Pro Bowl.
Sun Life Financial's permanent signage will be up in time for next weekend's Pro Bowl.
Sun Life Financial announced today it has purchased naming rights for Dolphins Stadium in Miami, which will host the Super Bowl and the NFL Pro Bowl in the coming weeks. The stadium is also home to baseball's Florida Marlins and college football's Miami Hurricanes.

Priscilla Brown, senior VP-U.S. marketing at Sun Life, said the nearly year-round tenants at the stadium, combined with its semi-regular hosting of high-profile events such as the Super Bowl and BCS Championship Game, made it an appealing platform for the Canadian financial services firm.

"As a company with very little name recognition, we couldn't afford to be an also-ran, one of 20 companies with their name on a wall," said Ms. Brown. "We needed to own something."

And it's always nice, of course, if that something comes with dozens of brand-name drops during an event watched by 150 million people worldwide. Asked for a dollar value to all the Super Bowl media impressions, Ms. Brown declined to offer one. "It's hard to do," she said, of finding a proper valuation. "It certainly came up once or twice."

TV spots
Nevertheless, Sun Life will leverage all the in-broadcast name drops with TV spots that will air during the Super Bowl pre-game and postgame shows, as well as during the Pro Bowl broadcast a week earlier. The buys were made before the naming-rights deal was in place.

And the company's permanent signage -- as well as additional temporary marks -- will be up in time for next weekend's Pro Bowl.

Dolphins Stadium spent the most recent NFL regular season as "Land Shark Stadium" via a trade deal with singer Jimmy Buffet that included a concert at the stadium by Mr. Buffet. But that arrangement, which expired at the close of the season, was always intended to be temporary.

The stadium has been previously known as Pro Player Stadium and Joe Robbie Stadium.

Ms. Brown said the frequent name changes actually make it easier for Sun Life to take over. "People don't really know what to call it now, so the Sun Life name has the ability to be memorable," she said. "If you're talking about [renaming] Fenway Park, you really can't do it."

90-day negotiation
The backstory of the deal starts with Dolphins CEO Mike Dee, who first met Sun Life's marketing leadership in 2008 when he was president of Fenway Sports Group, the marketing arm of the Boston Red Sox.

Those conversations culminated in an outdoor college hockey tournament at Fenway dubbed "Frozen Fenway." But when Mr. Dee took over the Dolphins in May, he was already familiar with Sun Life's marketing objectives and figured the stadium naming rights could be a fit when they became available.

He said the entire negotiation period took only 90 days, and Mr. Dee's former employer, FSG, helped to broker it. That's an impressive turnaround given the difficulties other stadiums have had selling naming rights in the current climate. "These opportunities have to stand on their own," said Mr, Dee. "The era of slapping a name on it because it makes you feel good is over."

The deal -- which is reportedly worth between $4 million and $7 million, though neither Ms. Brown nor Mr. Dee would comment -- is for five to 10 years, Ms. Brown said that because of built-in renewal clauses, she said she expected the Sun Life name to remain on the facility "forever."

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