The New England Patriots have become "America's Team," a position that belonged to the Dallas Cowboys for years. Patriots games are among the greatest shows on earth, with quarterback Tom Brady slinging passes up and down the field on the way to the Football Hall of Fame. Recently, the Patriots beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 55 to 31, a record number of points ever allowed by the Steelers. The game was played in Gillette Stadium, named for a brand Procter & Gamble Co. (PG) bought in 2005 for $57 billion. These naming rights may be the most effective marketing arrangement the deeply troubled consumer products company has.
The Gillette Stadium naming rights cost P&G $8 million a year over a 15-year contract. That is not a very rich deal, according to SB Nation. Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C) paid $400 million over 20 years to name the stadium in which the New York Mets play. One of the country's worst large banks bought the rights to one of the country's worst baseball teams. MetLife Inc. (MET) pays $16 million a season to name the stadium in which the broken-down New York Jets and New York Giants play.
The sponsors of unsuccessful teams might argue that these teams are on television frequently and that 70,000 or 80,000 fans attend each home game. That does not solve the problem of being associated with losers. What major company would pick that over an association with champions? It is one of many examples of why brands count in the world of marketing.
The Patriots play in what is deemed a small market. Boston is not a very large city, and neither is Providence, particularly compared to the largest market, New York. But football is, primarily, a sport watched on television, which takes market size out of the equation.
Selling razors or selling financial services aside, Gillette cut an excellent deal, perhaps in part by accident. It could not know the Patriot's future, but there is nothing wrong with an accident if it works out.