Super Bowl at Sun Life Stadium

TORONTO — Sun Life Financial (TSX:SLF) will pay at least US$20 million for the naming rights to the stadium of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, home of this year’s Super Bowl, as Canada’s third-largest insurer moves aggressively to become better known in the key U.S. market.

TORONTO — Sun Life Financial (TSX:SLF) will pay at least US$20 million for the naming rights to the stadium of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, home of this year’s Super Bowl, as Canada’s third-largest insurer moves aggressively to become better known in the key U.S. market.

Several sources close to the deal say the Toronto-based global insurer has secured the rights for at least five years, paying US$4 million each year.

The agreement could extend for as long as a decade, which means the company could pay as much as US$40 million to keep their name on what will be called Sun Life Stadium.

As part of the deal, Sun Life will have its name printed on tickets to sporting events, and concerts, as well as signs around the facility. Separately, the company has also committed to several charitable donations.

Sun Life has been rolling out its presence in the United States with advertising campaigns on high-profile sports programs intended to increase awareness about its U.S. division.

Well-known in Canada, Sun Life has less than two per cent customer awareness in the United States, where it lost C$413 million in the third quarter, down from C$533 million a year earlier.

In contrast, Sun Life’s Canadian division earned $219 million in the third quarter, up from $157 million in the 2008 third quarter.

Customer awareness is “an issue for the people who represent our products,” said Priscilla Brown, senior vice-president and head of Sun Life’s U.S. marketing.

“It would be lot better for them if they only had to make one sale, which is to understand the client’s needs and provide them with a product. Instead, they have two sales, because they have to help them understand who the company is.”

Some of Canada’s biggest banks have used a similar approach to boost their presence in the minds of American consumers.

In 2005, TD Bank (TSX:TD) bought the naming rights to the home of the Boston Bruins, now called TD Banknorth Garden.

Royal Bank have had their name on the home of the Carolina Hurricanes, the RBC Center, since 2002.

Canada’s largest bank has been a major player in the U.S. southeastern states since acquiring Carolina-based Centura Banks.

Scotiabank (TSX:BNS) paid $20 million in 2006 to put its name on the home of the Ottawa Senators for 15 years. The Maple Leaf hockey team plays at the Air Canada Centre in downtown Toronto.