Baltimore's football stadium will be renamed M&T Bank Stadium under the terms of a 15- year deal completed yesterday.
M&T, founded 147 years ago as Manufacturers and Traders Trust Co., will pay the Ravens about $5 million a year, according to C. Michael Zabel, a spokesman for the Buffalo, N.Y.-based bank. As part of the deal, the company will contribute to charities operated by the team.
Officials of the bank, which went from 26th largest in the nation to 18th through last month's acquisition of Baltimore-based Allfirst Financial Inc., were in town yesterday to complete details. An announcement is scheduled for 11 a.m. today.
It will be the stadium's third name since it opened in 1998 as "Ravens Stadium." The taxpayer-financed, $226 million stadium became PSINet Stadium in 1999 under a corporate sponsorship that dissolved last year with the bankruptcy of Internet service provider PSINet.
The state sold the Ravens the right to name the stadium for $10 million. The PSINet deal was for an average of $4.65 million annually over 20 years.
The new deal calls for the bank to put its name on the inside and outside of the stadium, as well as on the uniforms of the team's band, which will be renamed the M&T Bank Marching Ravens. M&T automated teller machines will be installed in the stadium.
Seeking an edge
Though not well known even to its customers in Maryland, M&T's public profile will greatly expand in July when its name replaces Allfirst's on branches and in regional advertising.
"It's a first-rate organization in a first-rate market," said Atwood "Woody" Collins III, president and chief operating officer of M&T's mid-Atlantic division and an executive vice president of the bank.
The transaction is among the five most lucrative NFL stadium-naming deals.
"The banking community is very competitive, and M&T is looking for an edge," said Ravens spokesman Kevin Byrne. "And we are looking for a company that would provide the finances we need to remain competitive and maintain our commitment to the community."
Anne Arundel businessman Stephen J. Bisciotti, who owns 40 percent of the team and is expected to buy the rest from the Modell family in January, was actively involved in the negotiations. He met with M&T executives at the Super Bowl in San Diego.
Aiding the Ravens in the hunt for a sponsor was E.J. Narcise, a partner in Team Services LLC, the Bethesda-based sports marketing firm hired last year to secure a naming rights deal. Ravens officials said from the start of the search that the team wanted a financially secure partner that would not add to the wreckage of dot-coms and start-ups that bought the rights to stadium names across the country only to go bust later.
The recent trend in naming rights has swung decidedly against fledgling firms such as PSINet and 3Com that dominated earlier deals. Instead, established companies making familiar products, such as Ford, Heinz and Gillette, have named stadiums.
Of the seven prior NFL stadium-naming deals completed in the past two years, three involved companies that manage money, three were with consumer product makers, and one was with a power company.
"It makes great sense for both sides," said David Cope, director of business development for Gilco Sports & Entertainment Marketing in Bethesda, which has negotiated a number of naming rights deals but was not involved in this search.
The bank will receive an immediate boost in name recognition in an important new market, and the team will get a solid partner, he said.
"More teams and owners are looking for good payers, ... and some of the best are banks and financial institutions," Cope said.
M&T will be the only bank to advertise on the stadium's exterior. Mercantile Bankshares Corp. has about a year left on a sponsorship of the club suite section, after which M&T will become the only bank with advertising inside the stadium, Zabel said. The bank also will be able to advertise its brokerage services, and the team has agreed not to sign sponsorships with other financial services firms.
Among the corporations who showed interest in the Baltimore stadium were telecom giant Nextel Communications of Reston, Va., and auto retailer CarMax of Richmond, Va., according to sources familiar with the talks.
Inside the deal
The Ravens originally sought an average of $6 million annually for 20 years, while the bank wanted a shorter, 10-year deal, for less money, according to a source familiar with the negotiations who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The deal commits M&T to contribute to club philanthropic activities, such as the Ravens Foundation for Families, which provides grants to groups focused on physical and mental health of youth, and the "Honor Rows" program that provides game tickets to youth organizations.
Bert Ely, a banking consultant in Alexandria, Va., said banks traditionally are among the biggest donors to community charities and view them as vehicles to establish a rapport with customers in their markets.