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M&T Bank locks up sponsorship extension with Bills

While the Buffalo Bills are busy adding free agents to the roster, M&T Bank announced a deal of its own with the team on Wednesday.

M&T renewed its long-standing sponsorship as the "official bank" of the Bills, signing a five-year deal that runs through 2023. Terms were not disclosed.

M&T began its marketing relationship with the Bills in 1985 and struck a deal for official-bank status in 2003. Five-year renewals have followed, through changes in Bills quarterbacks, coaches, ownership and the end of the playoff drought.

Peter Eliopoulos, M&T's chief marketing officer, said the bank benefits from the "reputational health that is burnished when people care about things that you care about." The deal gives M&T exclusive rights to issue Bills-branded checking and debit cards, and the bank has its name on a variety of seating areas inside New Era Field.

"Of course, you wrangle a little over terms here and there, but at the end of the day, it's an easy decision to make" to renew the sponsorship, Eliopoulos said.

The sponsorship also creates opportunities like the one at Highgate Heights Elementary School in Buffalo on Wednesday, he said.

The school is in the 14215 ZIP code supported by M&T's Buffalo Promise Neighborhood initiative. As part of M&T's announcement, Bills co-owner Kim Pegula, linebacker Lorenzo Alexander and head coach Sean McDermott fielded questions from students in the gym. The students then ran through a series of football drills, with Alexander showing off his quarterbacking skills and McDermott coaching the kids.

Bills player Lorenzo Alexander, mascot Billy Buffalo, head coach Sean McDermott and Kim Pegula, co-owner and president, pose for a photograph with students Wednesday. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

"There's a whole host of ways that we can interact with each other at events at like this with children that brings home the idea that the NFL isn't some distant thing," Eliopoulos said.

M&T and the Bills for years have teamed up on a program called "Touchdown for Teachers" that recognizes outstanding teachers in the region. That will continue under the new agreement, as will the Bills' support for the bank's "Gift of Warmth" drive. M&T and the Bills will launch an additional community program before the start of the Bills' 2019 season. Details were not yet disclosed.

Pegula said the programs that M&T and the Bills have worked on together "have made a huge impact, and both of us have really made our community a priority."

Buffalo-based M&T has seen value in tying its brand to NFL franchises in other markets, too. M&T has the naming rights on the Baltimore Ravens' stadium, and in 2017, the bank signed a deal to become the official community bank of the New York Jets.



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