It started about a year ago. The Walt Disney Co. had just bought the California Angels from Gene Autry. Now Disney needed a major corporate sponsor to offset its $80-million share in restoring Anaheim's Big A stadium.
The deal, including renaming rights to the stadium, was going to cost the successful bidder millions of dollars--far too pricey for most of the two dozen or so prospects on the company's early list.
"We talked about it last March, but it was clearly way beyond anything we could afford," an executive of one of the companies approached said.
But as it has done in expanding its theme parks over the years, Disney found a perfect partner with needs matching its demands. Edison International, whose alliance with Disney and Anaheim was announced officially Monday, made the final cut through a combination of deep pockets and a desire to put its name in front of millions of sports fans.
"Edison is actually more historic than Disney. It really appealed to me," Disney Chairman and CEO Michael Eisner said after the official, confetti-strewn announcement that the stadium would become Edison International Field of Anaheim--Edison Field for short.
Bob Wagner, director of advertising and broadcast sales for Disney's Anaheim Sports subsidiary, said the field of sponsors had been winnowed to about a dozen candidates by six months ago.
After negotiations began in earnest, "There was really no one else seriously in the running," said Thomas Higgins, Edison's top spokesman.
Sources said the agreement calls for Edison to pay Disney about $1.4 million a year for 20 years in exchange for having its name on the stadium.
Disney and Edison executives wouldn't confirm that figure publicly Monday. But it would put the deal squarely in the middle of recent stadium-naming agreements, said Dennis Howard, a marketing professor at the University of Oregon who has studied stadium economics extensively.
At one end are venues like Jacobs Field in Cleveland, where team owner Richard Jacobs is paying $13.9 million for 20-year naming rights.
At the other end is the new Pac Bell Park for the San Francisco Giants. Pacific Telesis Corp., aiming to wire up the stadium with electronic food-ordering from seats and other gizmos, paid $50 million for 24 years' worth of naming rights, Howard said.
Edison International, whose subsidiary Southern California Edison is the nation's second-largest utility in numbers of customers, will now have a huge marketing edge in its core market. That edge is much needed now, as California opens electricity sales and service to competition next year and electric companies are expected to bombard consumers with pitches the way phone companies do now.
John Bryson, Edison's chairman and CEO, said Edison International's shareholders, not Southern California Edison ratepayers, will pay for the Disney deal. "It's an investment for us," he said.
Selling sponsorships is old hat to Disney, whose flagship Disneyland theme park just up the freeway in Anaheim could not have opened in 1955 without financial help from ABC.
Like Edison, the television network had a compelling reason to strike a deal: it craved a Disney-produced show and link to the famous name to help establish it as a rival to CBS and NBC.
Disney also struck exclusive deals with Coca-Cola, Kodak and others at Disneyland. By the time Eisner became chief executive in 1984, the company was making tens of millions of dollars a year from sponsors, especially those at Florida's Epcot Center, where AT&T;, Exxon, General Motors and other corporate giants built pavilions.
Edison will get its name and logo on the main stadium sign, prominent display throughout the park, and use of a luxury suite near home plate.
It also will be granted use of the stadium to promote its far-flung deregulated ventures: from energy conservation and management services for business to security services and Internet access for homes.
The company wasn't ready to disclose exactly what it would build in the Anaheim park to promote itself, said Clara Potes-Fellow, a spokeswoman. She said that recharging stations for electric vehicles are a definite yes, but bringing in relief pitchers in electric vehicles has been ruled out.
"We want to promote them as long-distance transportation," she said. "That would make them look too much like golf carts."
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Terms of the Deal
What Edison International gets in exchange for its estimated $1.4-million-a-year agreement to sponsor Anaheim Stadium:
* Name recognition: Stadium name changed to Edison International Field of Anaheim
* Long-term agreement: Contract is for 20 years
* Association with renovated facility: Stadium is undergoing a $100-million renovation from multi-sport complex to a baseball-only, 45,000-seat home for the Anaheim Angels. It will include a picnic area, an outdoor stage for entertainment and a family play areas.
* Luxury suite: Edison gets $165,000 suite overlooking home plate
* Use of facility: Edison may use stadium for demonstrations and exhibits of its products and services.
Sources: Edison International, Times reports