N.O. Advocate official paper of Saints, Pelicans, Tigers

The New Orleans Advocate, the New Orleans Saints and the New Orleans Pelicans formally announced a partnership Wednesday that links the city’s only seven-day-a-week newspaper with its two professional sports teams.

John and Dathel Georges, the paper’s owners, joined Saints owners Tom and Gayle Benson and Rita Benson LeBlanc, along with roughly 400 guests, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to formally kick off the partnership. The deal makes The New Orleans Advocate the official newspaper of the Saints and Pelicans, and it allows the newspaper to promote itself at home games of the two teams.

Georges praised the Bensons and what they’ve meant to New Orleans, saying Tom Benson’s decision to step up and buy the New Orleans Saints years ago reflects a strong sense of civic pride and commitment.

Benson returned the kind words, thanking Georges for bringing a daily newspaper back to New Orleans. Georges bought The Advocate, the daily newspaper in Baton Rouge, on April 30 and has subsequently expanded operations to create a separate New Orleans newspaper.

“We have a great newspaper here, a daily newspaper, instead of having one three days a week or whatever it is,” Tom Benson said in relation to The Times-Picayune’s decision to curtail home delivery. “We are excited about it. We think The Advocate is going to do real good for itself and us too. We think it is very important. My wife and I every morning sit down and read the paper. There is nothing like it.”

Rita Benson LeBlanc, vice chairwoman of the Saints and Pelicans, thanked the business and civic leaders gathered in the Bienville Club room at the Superdome.

She said her family shares an entrepreneurial spirit with Georges.

“With The Advocate, John has a vision to grow it,” she said. “It wasn’t just an acquisition in Baton Rouge, it was something that would enhance New Orleans and continue to grow through the state. It made sense to partner with the Saints and the Pelicans.”

Guests included Oschner executive David Gaines; New Orleans City Council members Jackie Clarkson, Kristen Gisleson Palmer, Susan Guidry and James Gray; Jefferson Parish President John Young; Yvette Jones, Tulane University’s vice president of university relations; Sybil Morial, the wife of the late New Orleans Mayor Ernest N. “Dutch” Morial and mother of former Mayor Marc Morial; Arthur Morrell, the clerk of Orleans Parish Criminal District Court, and his wife, New Orleans City Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell; First City Court Judge Monique Morial; Tracee Dundas, founder of New Orleans fashion week; Ed Muniz, former mayor of Kenner and head of Endymion; and James McNamara of the BioDistrict New Orleans.

Georges asked the business and civic leaders gathered to support the newspaper if they believe in its mission.

“I’m asking you to support the paper, tell your friends,” he said.

Civic activist and Women of the Storm Founder Anne Milling agreed.

“It’s an exciting opportunity for the community,” said Milling, who is also a member of The New Orleans Advocate’s advisory board. “It’s almost like we’ve been given a second chance.”

Robert W. Merrick, chairman and chief executive officer of Latter & Blum, said the opportunities provided by a daily newspaper with a regional reach is “significant.”

“The Advocate is in a unique position to have a regional influence and a regional reach,” Latter & Blum President Rick Haase said. “And for an advertiser like us who does business from Lake Charles out through the Mississippi River Gulf Coast, to be able to have end-to-end coverage for our operations is great.”

The agreement between the newspaper and the sports teams covers marketing and promotion and does not involve news coverage of the teams. Similarly, The Advocate is the official newspaper of the LSU Tigers.