Sun Life Financial Renames Dolphins Stadium

Posted on by Chief Marketer Staff

The U.S. division of Sun Life Financial Inc. has signed its first naming rights deal with The Miami Dolphins that renames the team’s stadium “Sun Life Stadium.”

The agreement comes at an opportune time as the Super Bowl, the most watched American television broadcast, is set to be played there Feb. 7 and the Pro Bowl Jan. 31. The Toronto-based firm, Canada’s third largest insurer, hopes to expand business in the U.S.

Sun Life, a 144-year old financial services organization operating in 25 countries, chose a Florida-based entity because the state “is well represented in our sales mix across all three businesses,” Priscilla Brown, senior vice president and head of U.S. marketing for Sun Life, said yesterday.

“We wanted something that would give us national and international visibility,” she said. “We looked at lots of marketing options, including other sponsorships. We looked at things across the spectrum not just sports. But what could be better than the Pro Bowl, the Super Bowl, the Orange Bowl, the BCS championship, and three teams [Miami Dolphins, the University of Miami Hurricanes, the Florida Marlins]. It’s also a good venue for other international and national events that could come in the future.”

Florida is also home to plenty of baby boomers, an important customer for Sun Life, and to 1,400 licensed registered Sun Life sales people.

News reports were conflicted over the value of the five-year deal, some reporting $4 million, while others valued it at $7.5 million. An event celebrating the deal was held yesterday at the stadium.

One of the challenges Sun Life faces is name recognition, which has frustrated sales reps who have to take the time to explain who the company is and what it does before they can move on to try to sell its life insurance and annuities to customers. The hope is that the company can overcome those hurdles with the naming rights deal, as well as its first TV campaign that is underway with the tagline, “sooner or later you’ll get to know their name.”

“We’re giving people the clear idea of what the company is and what it stands for so the product people can focus on the product and not have to sell the company,” Brown said.

In its marketing, Sun Life will promote the 75,000-seat stadium in Miami Gardens, FL, as the “Official Home of the Miami Dolphins” and the company as the “Official Insurance Partner of the Miami Dolphins” as well as the “Official Wealth Management Services Partner of the Miami Dolphins.” Previously, the stadium had been named Joe Robbie Stadium, Pro Player Stadium and Dolphin Stadium.

A new logo will appear on printed promotional materials related to the stadium, all paper tickets, and stadium signage. The name will also be heard on announcements over the public address system and on electronic message boards at Dolphins home games and other events at the stadium. Signage will be in place for both the 2010 Pro Bowl and the Super Bowl. Fenway Sports Group helped broker the deal.

To determine its return on investment, the company will observe the response and reaction from customers and intermediaries who represent its product and keep a close watch on name awareness gains, Brown said.

As part of a charitable effort, Sun Life will invest $250,000 in the Miami Dolphins Foundation annually. It has also announced that southern Florida will be part of its major, multi-city philanthropic endeavor, the Sun Life Rising Star Awards,” which provides academic support to at-risk youth.

“We think what’s most important to do in any marketing and branding effort is to integrate across all channels,” she said. “It’s much more than slapping a name on a building. It’s about the work we’re doing in the community. It’s about PR and integrating our marketing elements from the national campaign into this element so they are all working together.”

As for Brown’s thoughts about the Dolphins, she said. “I just hope they win a lot.”

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