Best-Performing Stadium Sponsorships
Sponsoring a local sports team is an effective way to resonate with a community.
It’s something M&T Bank Corp. takes so seriously that it sponsors three NFL teams: the Buffalo Bills, in the bank’s hometown of Buffalo, New York; the New York Jets, who play out of Metlife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, and the Baltimore Ravens.
Since 2003, the $121.6 billion asset bank has held naming rights for the Ravens’ home field, M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland. It’s a relationship the bank extended in 2014, for a cool $60 million, keeping M&T’s logo on the stadium until 2027.
“We are embedded in the communities where we live and work, [and] we understand that those teams are important to their communities, including our employees, customers and prospects,” says Betsey Locke, senior vice president of brand, advertising and sponsorships at M&T.
Back in 2003, M&T was relatively unknown in the Baltimore market, she says. Holding the naming rights for the Ravens’ stadium “gave us immediate credibility. We’re now perceived as a hometown bank.”
Placing a bank’s logo on a local stadium and aligning the brand with a well-loved team can make an impact; that’s what drives even efficiency-conscious companies like M&T to spend millions on these sponsorships. It’s a unique relationship that Bank Director sought to understand by looking at the recent records of major sports teams.
In addition to win/loss records, the ranking accounts for the popularity of the sport, based on survey data from Gallup.
“Football remains the biggest and most popular sport,” says Locke. “The NFL draws the largest, strongest partnership ROI and the greatest fan affinity.”
Sponsoring sports teams is a tactic embraced by banks nationwide. There are more than 250 minor league baseball teams in the U.S., for example, and naming-rights sponsorships with these teams include big regional banks like Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bancorp (the $168.8 billion asset company sponsors the Toledo Mud Hens) as well as smaller banks like $9.6 billion asset NBT Bancorp, in Norwich, New York, which sponsors the Syracuse Mets.
College teams offer another popular option. Through its Centennial Bank brand, Home Bancshares, based in Conway, Arkansas, has naming rights on the stadium that’s home to Arkansas State University’s Red Wolves football team – John Allison, the chairman of the $15.3 billion asset company, is an alumnus of the school.
M&T gets hundreds of sponsorship requests from sports teams to arts and cultural activities, says Locke. Her team uses a scorecard to conduct an initial review and determine whether a request meets the minimum requirements for M&T to seriously consider it. They look at things like alignment with the bank’s target audience, whether the opportunity will effectively promote M&T’s brand and differentiate the company in the marketplace, and if the bank will be able to promote its products and services to new audiences. Requests that pass this initial review are then handed off to a committee that meets quarterly to decide which requests to ultimately pursue.
Sponsoring the Ravens is a good fit, says Locke, because M&T doesn’t just cut a check. “We do community efforts together,” she says. For example, 150 employees from both organizations worked together to rehab a Boys & Girls Club of America in Baltimore earlier this year. Showing that both organizations are “deeply embedded in the community” is an important piece of the partnership, says Locke.
For the Ravens and other partners, M&T tracks the return on its investment through a number of key metrics, including impressions and engagement on traditional and social media. The bank also offers branded checking accounts for fans of the Ravens, Jets and Bills. These affinity accounts are promoted alongside the sponsorship, and M&T tracks their growth as part of the checking portfolio.
Fans’ love of the game goes beyond the numbers. A team’s record doesn’t account for its history, and teams that perform well one year can break fans’ hearts the next.
Locke says M&T is with fans through the good times and the bad. “Fans are deeply engaged and support [their] teams year-round,” she says. And football promotes values that M&T wants to align itself with. “[It’s] about teamwork, love for the sport, love for the community,” she says.
Best-Performing Stadium Sponsorships
|Rank||Sponsoring Bank||Team||League||Win/Loss Record||Score*|
|#1||M&T Bank Corp.||Baltimore Ravens||NFL||62.5%||1.2|
|#2||Wells Fargo & Co.||Philadelphia 76ers||NBA||62.2%||1.8|
|#3||TD Bank||Boston Celtics||NBA||59.8%||2.8|
|#4||U.S. Bancorp||Minnesota Vikings||NFL||53.1%||5.0|
|#5||Barclays||New York Islanders||NHL||58.5%||5.6|
|#5||Capital One Financial Corp.||Washington Capitals||NHL||58.5%||5.6|
|#7||PNC Financial Services Group||Carolina Hurricanes||NHL||56.1%||6.4|
|#8||SunTrust Banks||Atlanta Braves||MLB||55.6%||7.2|
|#9||Citizens Financial Group||Philadelphia Phillies||MLB||49.4%||7.8|
|#10||Bank of America Corp.||Carolina Panthers||NFL||43.8%||8.6|
Source: Source: Gallup, NFL, MLB, NHL, MLS
*The score is based on the popularity of the sport as well as the win/loss records for each team. Where the bank sponsors an arena that hosts two sports teams, the best-performing team appears in the ranking.