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Field position

Putnam assumes key sponsorship at Gillette Stadium, raising its profile

By Todd Wallack
Globe Staff / July 29, 2011

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Boston mutual fund company Putnam Investments is replacing cross-town rival Fidelity Investments as a key sponsor of Gillette Stadium, the home of the New England Patriots football team.

As part of the deal, Putnam’s name will replace Fidelity’s on two three-story luxury clubhouses, each with 3,000 seats. Putnam will also supplant Fidelity’s name on a parking lot, entrance, and private road for clubhouse ticket holders leading to the Foxborough stadium. The road, currently labeled Fidelity Way, will be renamed Putnam Parkway.

“The reach of this opportunity is enormous,’’ said Putnam chief executive Robert Reynolds, a passionate football fan who helped negotiate Fidelity’s deal with the Patriots when he worked at Fidelity. Reynolds, a longtime Patriots season ticket holder, was a finalist to become commissioner of the National Football League five years ago.

The Patriots sponsorship is another move by Putnam to raise its profile, rebuild a brand tarnished several years ago by a market timing scandal, and become a stronger competitor to industry leaders such as Fidelity and Vanguard Group of Valley Forge, Pa.

Under Reynolds, Putnam has improved its investment performance and reversed years of investors draining money from its funds; for the first time in a decade, Putnam says, deposits from investors are outpacing withdrawals. Since Reynolds took over, the company has also struck deals with other sports teams and athletes, including the US Ski Team and professional golfer Keegan Bradley.

The Patriots, who have won three Super Bowls and eight division championships in the past decade, have “a lot of attributes that we try to convey, such as performance and teamwork,’’ Reynolds noted.

Fidelity spokeswoman Anne Crowley noted that Fidelity doesn’t typically sign naming-rights deals with sports arenas and decided to let the 10-year clubhouse deal expire. But Fidelity will retain its luxury box at Gillette Stadium.

“We still do have a relationship with the Patriots,’’ Crowley said. “It’s just a different relationship.’’

The Patriots have several other major corporate sponsors. Gillette, the famed Boston razor maker, struck a multimillion-dollar deal in 2002 to put its name on the team’s stadium, replacing onetime Internet powerhouse CMGI after the dot-com bubble burst. Procter & Gamble Co. acquired Gillette in 2005, but agreed to extend the naming-rights deal through 2031.

Hopkinton technology giant EMC Corp., which already sponsored luxury boxes in Fenway Park, inked a deal in 2007 to put its name on more than 80 luxury suites in Gillette Stadium.

Christopher Cakebread, a Boston University advertising professor who has taught classes on sports marketing, said such deals are frequently driven by the egos of executives who are sports fans.

But they can also provide a powerful way to raise awareness of a company’s brand, build company morale, and impress clients, since the deals typically include a certain number of tickets and opportunities to hold events at the arenas. He said Putnam could be paying millions of dollars for naming rights over the life of the agreement.

“It’s a perceptional investment,’’ said Cakebread. “There are lots of ancillary things that can come out of it.’’

Putnam didn’t disclose financial details for the partnership with the Patriots. But as part of the multiyear deal, the Patriots owners are renovating and expanding the clubhouses, upgrading the video technology, and opening up the layout with more glass to give spectators a better view of the field. The work is expected to be finished by the time the regular season begins in September.

“We’re excited,’’ said Jonathan Kraft, president of the Kraft Group, the family holding company that owns the Patriots and Gillette Stadium. Kraft said the partnership with Putnam will combine the “winningest team in football with a newly reenergized company.’’

Todd Wallack can be reached at twallack@globe.com.


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