Mercedes-Benz expected to land Falcons stadium name

Staff writer Greg Bluestein contributed to this article.

The Atlanta Falcons appear close to announcing a deal for Mercedes-Benz, a corporate newcomer to the region, to buy the naming rights for the team’s new stadium under construction downtown.

Both the team and the automaker declined to confirm or deny a deal Friday, but people familiar with the situation said an announcement is in the works for Monday.

Industry publication Sports Business Journal reported that Mercedes-Benz was expected to sign a contract Friday to put its name on the $1.4 billion retractable-roof stadium.

“Unfortunately, there’s nothing I can tell you,” Mercedes-Benz spokeswoman Donna Boland said in an email to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “This is not coming from us.”

“We have no comment on the report,” Falcons spokeswoman Kim Shreckengost said.

Mercedes-Benz, a German luxury automaker, announced plans in January to move its U.S. headquarters from New Jersey to metro Atlanta. The company is temporarily housed in an office park in Dunwoody and plans to build a new headquarters campus in Sandy Springs near Georgia 400 and Abernathy Road.

Having its name on the stadium, which is being built next to the Georgia Dome and slated to open in 2017, would be a remarkable splash for a newcomer to the Atlanta area business community.

“It would be a natural fit because of their headquarters move,” long-time Atlanta marketing executive Bob Hope said. “And from a Falcons branding standpoint, it would be a statement of quality and class.”

But having the Mercedes-Benz name on the Atlanta stadium could create an odd situation, because the New Orleans Saints, the Falcons’ division rival in the NFC South, already have the automaker’s name on their stadium: the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Mercedes-Benz became the title sponsor of the Superdome in 2011 by signing a reported 10-year contract.

The company also has its name on an arena in Shanghai, China.

The Falcons have been shopping the stadium naming rights since last year. Team officials have said they expected the name to fetch a price at the upper end of such deals in the NFL.

The largest NFL naming rights deals are the New York Giants’ and Jets’ agreement with insurance giant MetLife for a reported $17 million to $20 million per year on the teams’ shared stadium and the Dallas Cowboys’ agreement with AT&T for a reported $17 million to $19 million per year.

Under terms of the Falcons’ stadium deal with the city of Atlanta and the Georgia World Congress Center Authority, a state agency, the team controls the sale of naming rights and retains the revenue received. Neither government entity has approval rights over the naming-rights deal.

The new stadium also will be home to a Major League Soccer expansion franchise and numerous other events.

When Mercedes announced its pick of metro Atlanta for its U.S. headquarters in January, the company became one of the biggest business recruitments for the metro area in years. In brand power alone, it is perhaps the biggest since UPS’s relocation from Connecticut in 1991.

Atlanta-based SunTrust Banks last year agreed to a naming rights deal for the Braves’ new Cobb County stadium, but SunTrust has roots in Atlanta dating back more than a century. SunTrust also will be one of 14 “founding” partners of the Falcons stadium.

Mercedes has said it will relocate or create about 800 to 1,000 jobs to the metro area over time. The company’s $93 million corporate campus in Sandy Springs is expected to be completed in 2018.

Steve Cannon, Mercedes-Benz USA president and CEO, said in January that the company’s move from New Jersey started as an exercise in business efficiency and cost-cutting. But he also said the move to the Atlanta area was a bet on the metro area and a bid to attract young talent.

Cannon said the company would become an active corporate citizen in its new home.