Just in time to host the 2010 Pro Bowl and Super Bowl XLIV, the Miami Dolphins reached a long-term agreement with a corporate naming rights partner to rename their multi-monikered home, Sun Life Stadium.
Sun Life Financial, a Toronto-based financial services and insurance company, has agreed to put its name on the Miami Gardens venue for at least five years.
Financial details weren’t disclosed, but a source said the deal is initially five years with multiple options that could stretch the deal to 20 years. The Dolphins are to receive roughly $5 million a year but that could rise to the $7 million range if the certain incentives occur, including securing another Super Bowl and team playoff appearances.
The Dolphins and Sun Life officials from the company’s U.S. headquarters in Wellesley, Mass., announced the deal on a stage on the field inside the stadium. A medley of songs about the sun, including Sheryl Crow’s Soak up the Sun, Smash Mouth’s Walking on the Sun and Katrina and the Waves’ Walking on Sunshine, helped introduce the name.
“Boy does it feel good under the sun,” Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said before sharing the name with invited season ticket holders, Super Bowl Host Committee officials and volunteers and students from American Heritage.
Sun Life officials said what attracted them to the Dolphins home stadium was that it is home to football, baseball, the Orange Bowl, Super Bowl and other events and exposes them to lots of new potential customers. It will also help the company overcome the fact that many people in the U.S. aren’t familiar with what they do.
“It really has been about building our brand in the United States," said Wes Thompson, president of Sun Life Financial U.S. "We’ve got great presence in Canada, great presence internationally, but we’ve really lacked brand presence in the U.S., as you’ve seen we’ve with our most recent commercials, our efforts are to really get our name out, so sooner or later you’ll know our name. This is another step in that journey to build our brand.”
And just as they have been doing in their recent advertising campaign launched in November, Sun Life Financial called on KC & the Sunshine Band to help spread the word about its brand. In the ad campaign, two Sun Life representatives try to convince KC to change his band’s name to the “Sun Life Band.” KC still hasn’t done that, but did perform a medley of Shake Your Booty and Get Down Tonight.
Sun Life also agreed to contribute $250,000 annually to the Dolphins Foundation and the team and Sun Life together established “Sun Life Miami Dolphins Haiti Relief Fund” with $200,000 and will match contributions made at sunlifestadium.com two to one.
Priscilla Brown, senior vice president and head of U.S. marketing for Sun Life, who attended the announcement, and Sun Life Financial President Jon A. Boscia, are no strangers to football stadium naming rights deals. Brown served as chief marketing and brand officer for Lincoln Financial Group, where Boscia was CEO. In 2002, Lincoln National Corp., struck the $139.6 million, 20-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles to name the team’s new stadium Lincoln Financial Field.
Brown said what made the two deals different was the Lincoln Financial used the Eagles Stadium as a way to announce the company's entry into the Philadelphia market, but the Dolphins' stadium allows the company to make a statement both nationally and internationally.
"Here the primary objective was to make this really big given that we don’t have most of our employees in this area," Brown said. "We want to make sure people around the globe knew about it."
Dee said he didn't think the dollars from the Sun Life deal had been earmarked as yet, but were intended to be used to continue to build a winning franchise. He said he hoped the naming rights deal, which marks the first one in more than a decade that will generate revenue for the team, lasts well beyond the initial five-year term.
"We’ve made clear we want a partner for the long haul," Dee said. "We hope this is the last name this building ever has."
The Dolphins’ home venue, which opened in 1987 as Joe Robbie Stadium, has had a series of name changes. For the 2009 season it was known as Land Shark Stadium, after Dolphins owner Steve Ross struck a cash-less marketing deal with Jimmy Buffett’s Land Shark Lager. That deal was only through the 2009 season.
From 1996 to 2005, the stadium was named Pro Player after then-team owner H. Wayne Huizenga struck a deal with sports apparel maker Pro Player. In 1999, Pro Player’s parent company, Fruit of the Loom, filed for bankruptcy and the Pro Player brand was shuttered. The team regained the naming rights in 2000, but never struck a new corporate deal. The stadium was called Dolphins Stadium in 2005; the ‘s’ was dropped in 2006. The Land Shark deal was announced last May.
Thompson said he hopes the lack of a consistent name for the stadium helps fans remember the Sun Life Stadium name going forward.
“In a sense no one’s established a beachhead because of that," Thompson said. "It’s not as if we have to fight a 20-year nomenclature of any type that may have existed before. So we kind of view that as an advantage for us, and we are in this for the long term per the agreement we have with the Dolphins.”
Here’s the stadium name chronology:
Aug. 16, 1987-Aug. 25, 1996: Joe Robbie Stadium
Aug. 26-Sept. 9, 1996: Pro Player Park
Sept. 10, 1996-Jan. 9, 2005: Pro Player Stadium
Jan. 10, 2005-April 7, 2006: Dolphins Stadium
April 8, 2006-May 7, 2009: Dolphin Stadium
May 8, 2009-Jan. 5, 2010: Land Shark Stadium
Jan. 6, 2010-Jan. 19: Dolphin Stadium
Jan. 20, 2010: Sun Life Stadium
Watch a video from the announcement here: