The Atlanta Braves’ new stadium in Cobb County will be called SunTrust Park as a result of a naming-rights deal announced Tuesday by the baseball team and the Atlanta-based banking company.
Braves and SunTrust Banks officials said the deal runs for 25 years, beginning with the ballpark’s scheduled 2017 opening, but refused to make the financial terms public.
Marc Ganis, president of the Chicago-based SportsCorp consulting firm, which has worked on numerous major-league stadium deals, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the naming rights likely fetched an average of about $10 million per year for the Braves.
Under their deal with Cobb County, the Braves get the revenue from naming rights, which over time are expected to recoup a substantial portion of the team’s share of the cost of building and financing the $672 million stadium.
The announcement of the name highlighted a formal ground-breaking ceremony held Tuesday under a tent on the ballpark site near the intersections of Interstates 75 and 285. About 400 invited guests watched as Major League Baseball Commissioner-elect Rob Manfred, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, Braves legend Hank Aaron and numerous Braves, Cobb and SunTrust officials celebrated what the Braves called the official start of construction on an already-cleared site.
The Braves also released new architectural renderings of the stadium, again cautioning that the design remains a work in progress. The renderings show an exterior that combines brick, stone and steel; a three-story ChopHouse restaurant/bar beyond right field; and can’t-miss SunTrust Park signage beyond center field.
“This is one of the most important days in the history of the Atlanta Braves franchise,” Braves Chairman and CEO Terry McGuirk said.
McGuirk said the Braves had discussions with several other companies interested in the naming rights but quickly settled on SunTrust, a long-time team sponsor. The deal came together sooner than expected, he said.
“The passion that the SunTrust people had for this deal so overwhelmed everything that it quickly became a one-track plan to get this deal done,” McGuirk said.
SunTrust has had a number of marketing sponsorships with college and professional sports organizations in the past, but never one like this with its name on the entire venue.
“This is clearly the biggest, boldest thing we have done to date,” SunTrust Banks Chairman and CEO Bill Rogers said. “And it’s appropriate: This is our hometown.”
Rogers said the Braves’ plans for a massive, 365-day-a-year, mixed-use development adjacent to the stadium increased the project’s appeal.
“I think this ballpark and this mixed-use facility is going to be something that is unparalleled in baseball and unparalleled in cities,” he said. “… This is a unique opportunity.”
For SunTrust, the benefit of the deal is that “it allows us to engage with more people,” Rogers said. “Our branding and association with the Braves gives us more opportunities, more at-bats so to speak.”
The most lucrative naming-rights deal in Major League Baseball is the New York Mets’ $20 million-per-year deal with Citigroup, but Braves officials have called that figure an outlier because of the New York market. No other naming-rights deal in MLB is believed to fetch more than $6.4 million per year. The NFL’s San Francisco 49ers sold the name of their recently opened stadium to Levi Strauss & Co. for $11 million per year.
“We had in mind some very healthy numbers,” the Braves’ McGuirk said. “I think it is a fair deal.”
“Suffice it to say it would be very similar to other kind of deals that have been done around the country,” SunTrust’s Rogers said.
Ganis, the consultant, who has worked on numerous naming-rights deals but not this one, said the Atlanta market and the Braves’ geographic reach in the Southeast justifies a $10 million-per-year deal — “plus or minus a million or two depending on exactly what is included in the deal beyond just the name,” such as suites, sponsor activation areas, etc.
“It’s a good market right now for naming rights, but not an overheated market,” Ganis said.
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