LONDON — Software giant Microsoft Corp. announced a seven-figure sponsorship deal Thursday with the owners of London's Wembley Stadium, home of the England national soccer team.
The five-year deal makes Microsoft the stadium's first "founding partner," a title the stadium is reserving for only its largest sponsors and which comes loaded with perks.
Wembley will be wired up with the latest information technology from Microsoft as it enters the final stages of its $1.3 billion rebuild. (MSNBC is a Microsoft-NBC joint venture.)
In return, Microsoft's logo will be seen by millions passing through the stadium's turnstiles when it reopens in May 2006, as the deal allows the company to place 100 branded plaques around the stadium. Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft will also get a box on the halfway line and exclusive use of the 90,000-seat venue for one day each year.
The new stadium, crowned by a 440-foot arch, is already a landmark on the north London skyline. The stadium is scheduled to host next year's FA Cup Final and the Rugby League Challenge Cup Final, as well as live events including a concert by U.S. band Bon Jovi.
"Wembley Stadium plays a unique role in British life _ it's a national icon that has inspired generation after generation of young people with the dream of playing and performing at Wembley," said Nick Barley, Microsoft U.K.'s business and marketing officer. "By becoming Wembley Stadium's first founding partner, we are helping to ensure that dream continues."
Barley said that Microsoft was drawn by the challenge of producing the huge technology infrastructure needed by a venue of Wembley's size as well as the branding opportunity.
Michael Cunnah, chief executive of Wembley National Stadium Ltd., said the partnership would help "resurrect the stadium as the world's leading sports and entertainment venue."
Media reports put the value of the deal at $8.8 million. Microsoft and Wembley National Stadium Ltd. confirmed it was worth seven figures, but declined to be more specific.
Wembley said it hopes to announce three more big-name sponsors soon. Brewer Carlsberg U.K. Ltd. said it is in negotiations about a deal. Wembley declined to comment on reports that it is also holding talks with sports clothing firm Umbro PLC.
Bookmakers Betfred Ltd. and energy firm npower PLC have already been named as smaller sponsors.