Jan 20, 2010 at 09:16 PM
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Did Sun Life Get A Sweetheart Deal?

The Miami Dolphins stadium has officially been renamed Sun Life Stadium, just in time for this year's Super Bowl XLIV. The two parties today unveiled the stadium's new branding under the deal, which sources say was for five years with an extension option at an average annual fee of about $4 million.

Toronto-based Sun Life Financial is Canada's third largest insurer, founded in 1865 and with a primary focus on life insurance. The company's U.S. Headquarters is in Boston.

"This is the first naming rights deal done of significance in the post-recession period and we weren't out in the marketplace very long. A bigger priority was finding the right partner, so if that hadn't happened we were prepared to move forward under an old name. I think from our point of view it wasn't when, it was who," Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said. "For Sun Life to share so many of the common core values that we share, we were able to accommodate the timing that was in play because the discussions were moved along fairly quickly, and we wanted a partner for the long haul. It's an initial five-year agreement but there are a lot of mutual understandings to talk about a much longer agreement from there.

In the naming rights deal, Sun Life found a new way to instantly grow name awareness in the U.S. Ironically, Sun Life's recent TV campaign, released last November, had the company pitching Florida tourism officials for the right to change the state's slogan to the Sun Life state and ending with "sooner or later, you'll know our name."

"In a sense no one's established a beachhead because of [the number of different names the stadium already has had], so it's not as if we have to fight a 20-year nomenclature of any type that may have existed before," Wes Thompson, President, Sun Life Financial U.S. said. "We kind of view that as an advantage for us and we are in this for the long term, per the agreement that we have with the Dolphins."

While the deal isn't as short as its previous tenant, Land Shark (1 year), 5 years is a relatively short time frame for a naming rights deal. Still, many are saying Sun Life got a great deal. Andrew Willis of the Globe and Mail writes that Sun Life scored a bargain:

Sun Life is paying far less than what other financial sponsors have paid for stadiums with less visibility.

Sun Life benefited from striking a deal in the aftermath of the financial meltdown: All those other sponsorships were struck in what now feels like a different era.

“Properties are having to work harder than they had to to put together value propositions," Jim Biegalski, senior vice president for consulting at the Marketing Arm, told the Boston Globe. “Marketers are not looking at assets from a long-term perspective.’’

Here's Darren Rovell with both Thompson and Dee earlier today.

Fenway Sports Group out of Boston helped broker the deal.

photo credit: miamidolphins.com