National Car Rental signs 20-year, $158 million deal to name St. Louis NFL stadium
By Daniel Kaplan, Staff Writer
National Car Rental has agreed to name a prospective St. Louis football stadium for 20 years and $158 million, a development that occurs hours before NFL owners are to gather to discuss possibly moving the city’s franchise to Los Angeles next year. The stadium would be called National Car Rental Field.
The deal was arranged by the St. Louis stadium task force and signed with the St. Louis Regional Sports Authority, which would own the stadium. The St. Louis Rams had no role in the deal. The club’s owner, Stan Kroenke, wants to move his team to Inglewood, Calif.
“The commitment to keeping the NFL in St. Louis is as much a civic commitment as a brand commitment,” said Patrick Farrell, chief marketing and communications officer for Enterprise Holdings, which owns the National Car brand. Enterprise, which is privately owned, is headquartered in St. Louis. Farrell also cited the league’s demographics as aligning with the car brand’s core customers.
Dave Peacock, the co-chair of the nearly year old stadium task force that is striving to present a viable stadium proposal to the NFL, approached Farrell three months ago about a founding partner deal. Farrell called back and asked about naming rights.
“I nearly fell out of my chair,” said Peacock, who was aided in the negotiations by Premier Partnerships.
Whether the announcement changes the NFL/Los Angeles dynamic is unclear, though it could undercut the argument that St. Louis is not an NFL market. Kroenke, sources said, made that argument in August to his fellow owners, worrying about the market’s growth potential. Peacock pointed out the market ranks 15th in the NFL in terms of corporate base.
Owners at the Wednesday meeting in New York will focus largely on relocation fees, but the gathering also provides an opportunity for owners like Kroenke to lobby their peers. The Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers have an alternative stadium site in Carson, Calif.
The league’s relocation bylaws require owners to make a good-faith effort to keep their team in its home market before the owners as a whole will approve a move. Twenty-four votes are required for a relocation.
For National, which spends $10 million to $15 million annually advertising on NFL broadcasts, the deal is a return to the naming-rights game. Under previous ownership, the brand attached its name to the Florida Panthers arena, but that deal came undone in 2007 when the company filed for bankruptcy protection.
Since that time, the new owners have spent $200 million reviving the brand, Farrell said. Some of that has gone to sports sponsorships, such as with the PGA of America and the St. Louis Cardinals. But the football stadium would be far and away its largest deal.
There are no other car rental naming-rights deals in major U.S. sports.
National is not the first company to align with a prospective stadium. Farmers Insurance agreed to sponsor a downtown LA stadium proposed by AEG. Farmers got great exposure as the viability of the site was debated over the years. However, when AEG could not reach agreement with the NFL, the sponsorship expired.
Assuming the NFL does not delay a decision to relocate by another year, National Car will know far sooner whether it has a stadium to name. The league is expected to choose one of the two Los Angeles-area sites later this year or within the first two months of 2016.