By Barry Janoff
April 7, 2014: In July 2013, AT&T acquired naming rights to what was then Cowboys Stadium via a 15-20-year deal estimated at upward of $19 million per year.
Although that still ranks as one of the highest-priced naming rights deals, AT&T is already reaping rewards from its investment.
In 2013, AT&T, a corporate partner of the NCAA, received more than $16 million in media value via on-air branding and its other platforms related to the Div. I Men's Basketball Tournament, according to marketing and research firm Kantar Media, New York.
This year marks the first time that an NCAA corporate partner has its name on the venue hosting the basketball Final Four.
Because of that, AT&T is projected to receive $6.35 million in media value from the NCAA championship game between Kentucky and Connecticut alone. The value comes via national exposure on CBS from signage (mostly exterior as all ads within Final Four host stadiums must be covered evern for official marketing partners, per the NCAA), verbal mentions and on-screen text, according to analytics and research company Front Row Marketing Services, a division of Comcast-Spectacor, Philadelphia. All of which received substantial air-time.
The value is based on an estimate of 30-second TV spots going for about $700,000.
AT&T's total media value for the Final Four, yet to be determined, would also include national exposure during the two semi-final games played on Saturday night, which were televised across three Turner Broadcast networks: TBS, TNT and truTV.
Those two games "delivered the two most-watched college basketball telecasts in cable television history," according to Turner Sports. Kentucky's last second one-point win over Wisconsin was the most viewed college basketball game ever on cable, peaking with an average of 18.6 million total viewers.
“The power of naming rights is exponentially profiled during large scale sporting events like the Final Four, the Super Bowl or the CFB National Championship," said Eric Smallwood, svp for Front Row Marketing Services & Front Row Analytics. "The value that AT&T will receive from [the NCAA basketball title] game will be worth a third of their annual price tag, and the telecom will be 'top of mind' for every fan who watches the game, even those who have Verizon and T-Mobile."
In addition, the 2014 Final Four is expected to generate more than $276 million in spending and other financial income in North Texas, according to the Major Events Trust Fund, a unit of the Governor of Texas' Office of Economic Development and Tourism.
Last year, AT&T spent some $70 million to activate in and around March Madness, second only to the $80.7 million spent by General Motors, according to marketing and research firm Kantar Media.
This year, AT&T's marketing around March Madness included a TV spot with Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks, supporting U-Verse; spots supporting AT&T's the theme "Nothing But Network," with AT&T "network guys" Frank and Charlie; and others for AT&T's Family Plan, including one with retired NBA veteran Grant Hill.
AT&T also had a multitude of activations on the ground in and around Dallas, where the company is headquartered, as well as 20 miles away in Arlington, site of AT&T Stadium, leading to and then during Final Four Weekend, April 5-7.
Among AT&T's platform of events were experiential outdoor ads such as interactive store fronts, building projections and a “3D spectacular" in which an oversize basketball appears to have come off a billboard and crashed into a car; the AT&T Block Party as part of the NCAA March Madness Music Festival; and the AT&T Mobile Lounge and AT&T Fan Zone at Bracket Town, where fans had the opportunity to meet current NCAA coaches and other basketball legends.
Upcoming high-profile national events scheduled for AT&T Stadium include the annual Cowboys Classic Kickoff games; a college football playoff game (Jan. 1, 2015) and the National Championship Game (Jan. 12, 2015) that will be part of college football's newly implemented playoff system; and the 50th award 2015 Academy of Country Music awards show (April 19, 2015).
In addition to seeking future Final Fours, the stadium also wants to be part of the rotation to host upcoming NBA All-Star Games and NFL Super Bowls. The venue was the site of both before AT&T acquired naming rights and was known as Cowboys Stadium (the NBA All-Star Game was player there in February 2010 and Super Bowl XLV was played there in February 2011).
Although the City of Arlington owns the stadium, which opened in 2009 at a estimated cost of $1.3 billion, a pre-arranged agreement had the AT&T deal enacted with Jerry Jones, majority owner of the venue's significant occupant Dallas Cowboys. AT&T was already an anchor sponsor at the stadium.
"The value that AT&T will receive from [the NCAA title] game will be worth a third of their annual price tag, and the telecom will be 'top of mind' for every fan who watches the game, even those who have Verizon and T-Mobile."
That was not AT&T's first foray into stadium or arena naming rights. The company's roster also includes AT&T Park in San Francisco, San Antonio's AT&T Center and Jones AT&T Stadium on the campus of Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas.
“This is not the most in dollars there has been for naming rights, but this is the best naming-rights relationship,” Jones said at the time of the naming deal. “This was clearly the right company for us to move forward with. What greater icon in America than AT&T? You know, we’re pretty proud to be called ‘America’s Team.’ And so whose name would fit better [with the Cowboys] than AT&T?”
NCAA corporate champions are AT&T, Capital One and Coca-Cola. NCAA marketing partners include Allstate, Buffalo Wild Wings, Buick, Burger King, Enterprise, Infiniti, LG, Lowe's, Nabisco, Northwest Mutual, Reese's, Unilever and UPS.
“AT&T is an iconic American leader that has guided the path of communication in the world for more than 100 years,” said Jones in 2013. “Our stadium has always been about providing fans with an unsurpassed experience in the area of technology. With AT&T, we are growing our relationship with one of the world’s strongest and most innovative companies to ultimately provide fans with the latest cutting-edge technology for many years to come.”
AT&T, Mark Cuban Partner For NCAA Big Dance
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