|Tuesday, June 24
Updated: June 25, 5:38 PM ET
Bank One to be Bears' presenting sponsor
ESPN.com news services
They are not just "da Bears" anymore.
They are now "Bears football presented by Bank One."
In an unprecedented NFL move, Bank One on Monday paid an undisclosed amount to be the Chicago Bears' "presenting partner" for the next 12 years. Bank One is based in Chicago.
Ted Phillips, the Bears' president and chief executive officer, told Knight-Ridder that the deal would bring "a new level of corporate partnership to the city of Chicago and the NFL."
"Bank One will bring its customers and our fans new opportunities and enhanced services," Phillips said.
The specific amount the bank is paying the team wasn't disclosed. A business source familiar with the contract, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, put the total at more than $30 million.
Actually, a commercial tie-in is nothing new for the Bears. Founded in 1920 as the Decatur Staleys, they were named after their sponsor, the A.E. Staley starch manufacturing company. They moved the next year and became the Chicago Staleys for a season. Then, playing in Wrigley Field, home of the Cubs, they became the Bears.
As part of this newer deal, Bank One will get signs all over the stadium, advertisements on Bears' radio broadcasts and non-game television programs, the team's banking business, a presence at training camp, and a sponsorship role in the team's community outreach efforts, according to the news service.
Also, the team will often make use of the phrase "Bears football presented by Bank One" on the air and in newspapers, according to Knight-Ridder.
The Bears' sponsorship options were limited because Mayor Richard M. Daley and the city, which helped the Bears obtain financing for the stadium reconstruction, would not allow naming rights for the team's stadium to be sold. The project to build a new, 61,500-seat arena within the 1924 stadium's colonnades is being financed largely with public funds.
On rare occasions, sports teams have had presenting partners before. It has been commonplace for golf events, tennis tournaments and college bowl games to have them, as well. However, this is a first for a NFL team, and it is one with an extremely high profile.
"This strikes me as a dangerous precedent, maybe one step too far," Paul Swangard, managing director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon, told Knight-Ridder. "We've reached the point where to generate more revenue, everyone's diving into what seems to me to be a gray area."
"It allows us to associate ourselves very closely with the team," Bank One spokesman Tom Kelly said. "It's really about visibility. We're reaffirming to the people of Chicago that we're Chicago's bank, that Chicago is important to us."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.