Acrisure CEO thinks ‘alignment’ with Steelers in naming rights deal is perfect fit for growing company

Greg Williams realizes the company he founded in 2005 might be unfamiliar to Pittsburgh residents in general and Steelers fans in particular.

Until Monday, when Acrisure was named as the new naming rights recipient of the former Heinz Field, the company likely had little brand recognition outside its home base in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Williams, however, thinks Acrisure and the Steelers have parallel approaches to their respective industries, which is why he quickly decided on a 15-year partnership that sports marketing experts project to be valued at $ 10 million a year.

“Culturally, there couldn’t be a better alignment,” Williams said at a news conference Tuesday to announce the newly christened Acrisure Stadium. “If you think about our business, we’ve kept our head down and quietly went about building as great a company as we could build with little fanfare, no press. We didn’t even brand, and it was probably unwise to do that. ”

Acrisure has acquired about 700 companies in its 17-year history, with about 500 coming aboard in the past two years. Those companies might not carry the Acrisure logo that will be plastered all over the North Shore stadium, but employees receive a paycheck from a company expected to surpass $ 4 billion in annual revenue this year.

Williams said Acrisure, a top 10 global insurance broker that also has holdings in real estate and cyber security services, has about 1,000 of its 14,000 employees based in Pennsylvania with a “significant presence” in Pittsburgh. He estimated that Acrisure will service 100,000 customers in the state by the end of the year.

“We have a greater presence here than you realize,” he said.

Acrisure also matched the price tag that Steelers president Art Rooney II put on the stadium’s next naming rights deal. The contract with Heinz brought $ 57 million in revenue over a 20-year period and was extended for 2021 at about $ 2.9 million.

The deal with Acrisure triples that revenue stream.

“I think this brings us into a more competitive range with the other stadiums around the country,” Rooney II said. “That really was the goal – to be in a more competitive situation with our peers.”

The naming rights deal will help the Steelers continue to make improvements to the stadium without relying on taxpayer dollars, Rooney said. He cited the Steelers using their own money to fund the Hall of Honor museum that is scheduled to open this year and replacing escalators at the venue.

Rooney hopes the Steelers can retain a sponsorship agreement with Kraft Heinz, including keeping the giant ketchup bottles that accompany the scoreboard in the south end zone. Some zoning issues remain pertaining to signage, and Rooney’s goal is to have the transition from Heinz to Acrisure complete by the start of the NFL season.

Rooney said he negotiated with several Pittsburgh-based companies before turning to Acrisure.

“We never closed the door on anybody,” he said. “We wanted the best deal we could make, and we’re pleased this turned out the way it did.”

Acrisure had an inside track based on its allegiance with Thomas Tull, a Steelers minority investor for the past 13 years. Tull sold his Pittsburgh-based company, Tulco LLC, to Acrisure in July 2000 for $ 400 million.

“When Thomas called, knowing the history in terms of the love we had for the Steelers, it was something that was natural and it didn’t take long to say yes,” Williams said. “It was a matter of meeting Art and getting a sense of what the opportunities would need to look like for the Steelers to say yes.”

Williams’ love for the Steelers began in the 1970s. He was 13 when the franchise captured its first Lombardi Trophy by beating the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IX.

“It was hard not to fall in love,” he said. “It was also the brand of football – the toughness, the grit, the defense. I’m one of those football fans who likes watching defense more than offense. ”

Williams has been married for 40 years, and he recalled taking his young wife to a game in Cincinnati when the couple was “pinching pennies.” They were sitting by the motel swimming pool when tour buses filled with Steelers fans arrived.

“They immediately came off the bus, didn’t check in and literally ran and jumped in the pool,” he said. “When I say jumped into the pool, they were fully clothed, shoes, the whole thing. I thought, ‘These Steelers fans, they came to play.’

“That’s why this is a bit of a pinch-me moment.”

Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe by email at jrutter@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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