Saints: Mercedes-Benz drives off Superdome naming rights

NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 11: The New Orleans Saints logo is seen on the field during a game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on September 11, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 11: The New Orleans Saints logo is seen on the field during a game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on September 11, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

Mercedes-Benz will not renew it’s naming rights deal with the Superdome when this contract ends at the end of this year.

Mercedes-Benz USA announced last week that they will not renew their naming rights agreement with the Superdome, home of the New Orleans Saints. The Saints will be looking for a new naming rights partner in 2021 when the current agreement expires.

Mercedes-Benz became the Superdome’s first naming rights sponsor since it was built in 1975. It was one of the last NFL stadiums to have a naming rights partner. The sponsorship deal was initially undisclosed but has been reported to have been between 50 and 60 million dollars over 10 years.

The Saints are the Dome’s primary tenants and most noted attraction over the 45 years of its existence. But with the naming rights to the dome, you also have your name associated with Super Bowls, the Sugar Bowl, NCAA Final Fours, the Essence Festival, and so many other major sporting events.

The Saints current lease with the Superdome runs through 2025. They are highly likely to re-sign with the state.

Naming rights have been around for decades, but only in recent years has the corporate sponsorships been such an important part of the funding in stadiums. Financially, it’s a boon for the entities that own and operate the stadiums. This naming rights deal helped offset some of the burden on the state’s contribution to the Superdome.

But the naming hasn’t always been met with approval. It is a given when a new venue opens that there will be naming rights associated with the venue.

But in the case of long-standing stadiums that already have established names – like the former Louisiana Superdome, or more casually The Superdome or The Dome – it’s a tough sell to get local fans around the new name. Mercedes-Benz offered only a short stay here in the Crescent City, and most locals never truly warmed up enough to utter the full name over just saying “The Dome”.

The Superdome was the vision of local businessman Dave Dixon, who was looking to bring an NFL franchise to New Orleans in the early 1960’s.  Dixon convinced NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle to agree to a team in the city, on the condition a domed stadium was built due to the heat and frequent thunderstorms.

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Dixon’s visit to the Houston Astrodome with Louisiana governor John McKeithen forwarded the promise of a domed stadium. The Saints were awarded to New Orleans one week before the bonds were fully secured to fund the Superdome.

The Dome was supposed to have been completed in time for the 1972 season, but as is too often the case in Louisiana, there were obstacles to getting the job done. Construction didn’t begin until 1971 and wasn’t completed until August of 1975.

This delay and overrun cost the Saints and the city the opportunity to host a Super Bowl in the Dome in January of 1975, as it had been scheduled. Super Bowl IX was instead played at old Tulane Stadium.

It was the last of three Super Bowls played in Tulane Stadium and, as fate would have it, was played in cold and rainy conditions. This Super Bowl was the last professional game held at Tulane, which was the original home of the Saints.

Of course, the Superdome was built primarily with the New Orleans Saints in mind, but was always intended to be a multi-use stadium, and has hosted NBA basketball, NCAA championships, mega-concerts, gymnastics, soccer, professional wrestling, and boxing among other major events.

One of history’s most iconic boxing moments occurred in the Superdome, the Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Roberto Duran “No Mas” fight.

The Saints have a 185-171 overall win-loss record in the Superdome, which includes a 7-5 record in Dome playoff games. That’s a pretty good mark considering the Saints are still well under .500 in franchise total wins.

The Superdome has also seen more misery than it would like to reveal. During Hurricane Katrina, it was a refuge of last resort for many people who could not leave New Orleans. It was not prepared to function in this capacity. People went with little or no food and it was not provided there.

There was no power and the restrooms were not functional. The outer covering of the roof peeled off and water seeped into the building. No less than three people died in the building during that time.

But just as that is part of the dark history of the Dome, the refurbishing and reopening of the stadium after Katrina is one of the most unforgettable moments in Saints history, and to an extent, in sports history.

In September of  2006, the Superdome reopened with the Saints playing the Atlanta Falcons on Monday Night Football. The entire sporting world was treated to the spectacle that was the first public showing that New Orleans was going to recover.

The Goo Goo Dolls played a concert on the concourse outside the Dome. Inside for the pre-game, iconic bands U2 and Green Day combined with the locally legendary Rebirth Brass Band and Trombone Shorty in performing “The Saints Are Coming”. Few times in the Superdome’s history have been as emotionally moving.

Mercedes-Benz has announced they will continue their naming rights deal with the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, as they are simply streamlining their sponsorships. They felt sponsoring two stadiums not only in the same sport, but also in the same division was excessive.

The Saints and the city will obviously be looking locally, nationally, and potentially globally for a sponsor to put their name on the building. It is an iconic building in an iconic city. It’s location so close to hotels, restaurants, and the French Quarter make it one of the nation’s most desirable huge venues. Though it’s the 5th oldest venue in the NFL, it continues to update and reinvent itself.

One group, the adult website StripChat has offered $15 million for naming rights. It isn’t clear if this is a multi-year deal offer or a one-time thing. Don’t truly know if it’s either – it could just be a way for StripChat to get free advertising and have their named mentioned as it is here.

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Whomever the next naming rights sponsor is will have their name on the SEC Gymnastics Championship next March, the NCAA Men’s Final Four in 2022, and Super Bowl LVIII in 2024. That’s a healthy run of events