SAFECO Buys Baseball Field Naming Rights

SAFECO Corp. has purchased the naming rights to the Seattle Mariners' new baseball stadium.

The name of the new ballpark will be SAFECO Field. The 20-year naming rights deal between SAFECO and the Mariners will cost SAFECO $1.8 million per year, adjusted annually for inflation, amounting to about $40 million over the commitment period, the Seattle-based carrier said.

"With our 1997 acquisition of American States Financial Corp., SAFECO is now the 15th largest property and casualty insurer in the country," according to SAFECO Corp.'s chair, Roger Eigsti. "So our advertising, marketing and visibility needs are bigger and more diversified now," he added.

Mr. Eigsti said SAFECO's growth would be advanced with the additional regional and national visibility that comes with SAFECO Field naming rights.

"It's a natural," said SAFECO Corp.'s president, Boh Dickey. "We'll get comprehensive visibility on 65 network affiliate TV broadcasts, 60 regional cable broadcasts and 162 radio calls of Mariners games where SAFECO Field will be mentioned throughout."

Mr. Dickey said one key to the attractiveness of the deal to SAFECO is that the Mariners have been a successful and exciting baseball team.

"The Mariners are good managers and marketers," said Mr. Dickey. "Plus they are peaking in attendance and strong broadcast ratings, all of which advance our goal of better exposure for our organization."

Mariners President Chuck Armstrong said the team's television ratings are "among the highest in baseball." He said 1997 attendance topped three million and will likely go up substantially when the new stadium opens. "We've got the ability to deliver a lot of value to SAFECO through the naming rights," he said.

"A lot" includes broadcast and cable television commercials, newspaper coverage and prominent signage in and around the ballpark, including signs at all the main entrances to SAFECO Field.

SAFECO officials expect positive results based on similar corporate naming projects they examined, the company said.

"In cities where other companies bought stadium naming rights, 61 percent of the people surveyed felt the naming rights favorably reflected on their communities and 35 percent felt this form of advertising had a positive effect on their perception of the sponsoring company," according to Mr. Dickey.

SAFECO officials hesitated to put an absolute dollar return on the deal, but said its value will increase over time.

"As with all forms of advertising, the frequency and consistency of the message is what drives the eventual benefit. Three generations of people will pass into our prime demographic targets over our 20-year commitment and the images of SAFECO will be far deeper ingrained in them than it would be otherwise," Mr. Dickey said.

"We also want our independent agents to know we're serious about supporting their efforts to recommend SAFECO products to their customers," added Mr. Dickey. "This helps insure that the image of SAFECO grows as high in name recognition as any of our competitors."

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