MIAMI -- "Home means everything."
That may be the motto for mortgage company loanDepot, but it's also the sentiment shared by the Marlins and their place in South Florida. When MLB ushers in a new season Thursday on Opening Day, Miami fans will return to the ballpark for the first time in 18 months and find it has a new name. The Marlins and loanDepot on Wednesday morning announced an exclusive multiyear naming rights partnership for Miami's home venue to be called loanDepot park.
The sides did not release specifics on the deal, but they did say it involved months-long conversations that came together rather quickly in time for the season opener.
Marlins chief executive officer Derek Jeter called the timing right because the organization had found the perfect partnership in loanDepot, a company that believed in the ballclub's role in the community. In the past, loanDepot park has hosted the 2017 MLB All-Star Game, rounds of the past two World Baseball Classics, Super Bowl Opening Night, college football games and Monster Jam, among other events. It has also served as a COVID-19 testing and vaccination site, and it has hosted weekly drive-thru food distributions during the pandemic. loanDepot CEO Anthony Hsieh, who noted the company had been looking for alliances in and out of baseball, mentioned aligning values like culture, spirit and overall understanding of performance and leadership.
"I think it's beneficial to our organization," Jeter said. "The fact that Anthony and loanDepot believe in what we're building here, but I think it's also [that] they believe in the community of South Florida. And that's a big deal. His company has deep-rooted philanthropic values, which is important to us. I think you've seen what we've been trying to do here in the community and our involvement in the community and saying that this is the community's team. And Anthony is on board with that. He wants to make an impact here as well."
Founded in 2010 and headquartered in California, loanDepot sells mortgage and non-mortgage lending products. According to a press release, the organization has grown from a startup of 50 employees to nearly 11,000 team members while becoming the nation’s second-largest non-bank retail originator, funding more than $300 billion since its inception. Earlier this month, loanDepot was named the official mortgage provider of Major League Baseball, and it will be the presenting sponsor for the American League and National League Championship Series through 2025.
According to Hsieh, what also attracted loanDepot to the partnership was South Florida's vibrant housing market and diversity. Hsieh, an only son of Chinese immigrants, came to the United States at 8 years old. He has had conversations with Marlins general manager Kim Ng, whose parents are of Chinese descent. Both Hsieh and Ng are minorities in their respective fields.
"To see our company realize some of the American Dream, that we as immigrants all come here to [actualize], to have this company that's 11 years old be partners with the Marlins and to have loanDepot park here today, is significant," Hsieh said. "All of us at team loanDepot are very, very proud of this accomplishment."
Previous Marlins ownership and the current group had been unable to secure a naming rights deal for Marlins Park, which opened in 2012 in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood. There are now just eight MLB ballparks without corporate names: Dodger Stadium, Nationals Park, Yankee Stadium, Angel Stadium, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Wrigley Field (Cubs), Fenway Park (Red Sox) and Kauffman Stadium (Royals).
Within the span of a week, the Marlins completed a new TV deal and acquired naming rights for their home ballpark, both of which will provide additional revenue to the organization. Two weeks ago, AutoNation, America’s largest automotive retailer, elevated its partnership level with the club. Last Friday, Miccosukee renewed its own with a multiyear agreement.
This season marks Year 4 of the Bruce Sherman and Jeter-led ownership team. The Marlins reached the playoffs for the first time in 17 years during a truncated 60-game slate in 2020, and the organization boasts the fourth-best farm system, according to MLB Pipeline. In '21, Miami faces the tough task of making the playoffs again in the highly competitive NL East.
"They're foundational pillars for us," Jeter said. "These are big deals, they're important deals for us, but you know, we still have a lot of work to do. We want to continue to make progress on the baseball operations side, we want to continue to make progress on the business operations side. We still have a lot of unfinished business here."
Tracing it back to the philanthropic impact of the alliance, loanDepot will donate $50 for every Marlins run scored during the regular season to expand youth baseball and softball opportunities through the Miami Marlins Foundation's programming at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Miami-Dade. This is in addition to its season-long “Home Means Everything” RBI campaign, for which the company will be donating $25 for every regular-season RBI to Boys & Girls Clubs of America. The campaign will begin on Opening Day with $250 for every RBI. In addition, loanDepot will serve as the presenting sponsor of Salute & Serve Days, when active and retired military personnel, veterans, fire rescue personnel, members of the police department and healthcare professionals can receive two complimentary tickets to every Monday game at loanDepot park.
Branding transformation will take place over the coming months, with new signage already being integrated inside the ballpark with virtual ribbon boards. External ballpark signage is anticipated to be in place in time for the All-Star break (July 12-15). As for the styling of the name? Hsieh said that a brand expert recommended it 11 years ago when the company began.
"I think at the time, we wanted to be different than a legacy, stuffy, you know, sort of home loan or mortgage company," Hsieh said. "We are not the stagecoach, so we wanted to make sure that we put our brand out front, and it was one of the options. We felt like the lowercase looked pretty cool."