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Bank One is Bears' 'presenting partner'

Posted: Tuesday June 24, 2003 2:44 PM
  Brian Urlacher looks forward to free checking. Getty Images

CHICAGO (AP) -- Bank One Corp. presents ... the Chicago Bears.

In a deal that stops just short of stadium-naming rights, Chicago's biggest bank has committed to a 12-year sponsorship of the city's NFL franchise that will give it a prominent role when the Bears return to rebuilt Soldier Field this fall.

Under the multimillion-dollar arrangement, unprecedented in the NFL, "Bears football presented by Bank One" will be a signature phrase for the team.

Bank One, the sixth-largest U.S. bank company, will have its name promoted heavily on signs throughout the stadium, on game broadcasts, on certain non-game TV and radio programs, at training camp and at community outreach and other events.

Neither the Bears nor Bank One disclosed the specific amount the bank is paying the team under the partnership agreement announced Monday, but a source familiar with the matter who asked not to be named put the total at more than $30 million.

Madison Avenue Matches?
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While presenting partnerships are common in golf, tennis and college football bowl games, among other events, there have been no such sponsorships in the National Football League.

Bank One spokesman Tom Kelly said the partnership "reaffirms in our hometown that we're Chicago's leading bank and we intend to stay that way."

"As the presenting partner of Chicago Bears football, Bank One will bring its customers and our fans new opportunities and enhanced services," said Bears' president and CEO Ted Phillips.

Bears bite back
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears president and CEO Ted Phillips regarding the team's partnership with Bank One:

"The Chicago Bears did not, and will never, sell the rights of our team name. Our partnership with Bank One does not and will not change how the team is referred to in any fashion locally or nationally. An inaccurate newspaper report misrepresented our arrangement with Bank One. The paper printed a correction of the report and I will further clarify our relationship with Bank One.

"As the Bears presenting sponsor, Bank One will enjoy a presence at Soldier Field, in addition to being the presenting sponsor for the team's community outreach projects and off-season events (Fan Convention, Draft Day Party, etc.). Creating an all-encompassing relationship is what makes the partnership between Bank One and the Bears unique." 

It's the second big corporate sponsorship deal this year involving a Chicago professional sports team. In March, the Chicago White Sox changed the name of Comiskey Park to U.S. Cellular Field after the wireless service provider agreed to pay $68 million over 20 years for the naming rights.

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.

In addition to the sponsorship deal with Bank One and smaller ones still being sought, the Bears are expected to boost their profits significantly when they move back into the rebuilt stadium, which is being paid for largely with public funds.

The project to build a new, 61,500-seat arena within the 1924 stadium's colonnades is being financed with the sale of $432 million in bonds backed by hotel-motel taxes. There also is a $200 million contribution from the Bears and the NFL to come in part from the sale of stadium seat licenses. Only $30 million will come directly from the Bears' owners.

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