M&T Bank Buys Stadium Naming Rights

BALTIMORE — Competing in the NFL extends beyond blocking and tackling. The Baltimore Ravens' $75 million contract with a banking conglomerate based in Buffalo, N.Y., transforms the name of the Ravens' stadium to M&T Bank Stadium. The 15-year partnership, announced at a Tuesday morning news conference at the stadium, was deemed necessary because of the league's financial realities, said owner Art Modell.

"Without going into a lot of detail about our business, this is money that we don't have to share with the owners or the players," said Modell, who is expected to sell his majority share to minority owner Steve Bisciotti fol-lowing this season. "We've got to have this revenue to win."

Modell wasn't referring to profitability issues. He was focused on having enough money to bid on free agents and sign rookie draft picks. Ravens Stadium, once known as PSINET Stadium until that Internet service provider went bankrupt, will now have "M&T" signage inside and outside of the stadium in addition to the placement of M&T auto-mated teller machines at the stadium.

The work on the $226 million facility at Camden Yards will be completed prior to the team's opening preseason game on Aug. 9 against the Buffalo Bills.

"The name has kind of a ring to it," Ravens inside linebacker Ed Hartwell said. "I think it will grow on people."

Even the team's band, which attended Tuesday's news conference along with team offi-cials such as head coach Brian Billick, Mayor Martin O'Malley, players and cheer-leaders, will be renamed as the M&T Bank Marching Ravens and will wear uniforms featuring the bank's name.

M&T was founded 147 years ago as Manufactures and Traders Trust Co., growing from 26th to the 18th-largest banking company when it acquired Allfirst Financial Inc. for $3.1 billion last month.

The bank has branches in Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C.

"Our move into the Balti-more market is a watershed event," M&T president Robert Sadler said.

While M&T was seeking name recognition, the Ravens made it clear what they wanted from the marriage: an influx of capital.

"Since really the inception of being here, we have made mention of the importance of naming rights," Ravens president David Modell said. "Without going on and on about it, it is critically im-portant and this relationship allows us to stay on par with our competitors. It is a reality of our world."

The deal includes M&T contributing to several charitable initiatives, including an all-community team, a block of seats for economically and socially disadvantaged children, Football 101 and Aunt Hattie's Place.

"Our partnership with the Ravens builds brand awareness quickly, effectively and efficiently," said William Mabee, M&T's senior vice president of marketing. "M&T's green and the Ravens' purple is a perfect match."

Team Services LLC is the Bethesda sports marketing company that helped the Ravens choose from a list that reportedly included Nextel, the cellular telephone group, and CarMax, an auto-mobile sales firm.

After the financial difficulties of PSINet, the Ravens were looking for stability and a corporate partner willing to invest in the community.

"I think it's a great benefit that it turned out to be a financial institution that has been around for a long number of years," said Dennis Mannion, the Ravens' vice president of business development and marketing. "We were looking for a direct retail type of company and their stability made it the best of both worlds."

The stadium opened in 1998 as Ravens Stadium, and shifted to PSINet in 1999 with the signs being removed before last season. The Ravens bought back their naming rights and changed the name back to Ravens Stadium before reaching this deal with M&T.

With a contract averaging a payment of nearly $5 million per season that Bisciotti helped to bring about, the Ravens' naming rights deal ranks as one of the fifth highest in the NFL.

There was a groundswell of support last fall when former Baltimore Colts quarterback legend Johnny Unitas died to rechristen the stadium in his name. More than 70,000 people lent their name to an on-line petition supporting that cause.

The Ravens couldn't afford such sentiment, though, instead erecting a statue of Unitas outside the stadium, naming a plaza after him and painting a likeness of his No. 19 jersey on the sidelines last season.

"Nobody knew better about the situation we were in than Sandy Unitas," Art Modell said of Unitas' widow. "We memorialized him the best way we could without losing the opportunity."


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