Jun
18

Sports branding: Senator’s arena becomes Canadian Tire Centre. Sigh.

Another stadium re-branding: we’re more than just tired.

So you’ve heard about the Ottawa Palladium? How about the Corel Centre? Scotiabank Place? Well forget about them all. As announced this morning, Ottawa’s professional hockey stadium is about to change its name for the fourth time since 1996.  

Your name here

The good part…

Stadium Brand names - sponsorship

Percentage of 111 stadiums for the “big four” professional sports leagues: NBA, NFL, MLB, and NHL

Okay, I’m a branding guy. So I get the naming rights game. I’ve been part of board room decisions around JetForm park, and I worked at Corel during 1996. Big brands will pay a LOT of money to get their moniker on the side of a stadium, and into the mouths of fans and broadcasters. And that’s all good.

And we could choose a much more embarrassing corporate partner than Canada’s iconic automotive / hardware / electronics / now grocery brand. We could have a “Sleep Train Arena” like the NBA team the Sacramento Kings, or “Dick’s Sporting Goods Park“, the home of the Colorado Rapids soccer team.

And it sounds like the Senators ownership team actually chose this partnership:

Senators owner Eugene Melynk said of the discussions leading up to Tuesday’s official agreement. “The possibilities kept growing and growing and growing. They made up their mind pretty quickly. After that, they moved so fast. In the end, it’s very extensive. You’re going to see a lot of big changes.”

The annoying stuff…

Here are a few reasons this name change is annoying to me – and if Twitter is any guide (and it is) – it’s annoying many other Ottawa fans as well. Yeah, we’ll get used to the new name. Again. But before the anger dies, some thoughts on stadium branding.

  1. Another name: it’s hard to really develop affection for a brand – any brand – if it keeps changing its name every few years. I had just gotten used to saying “Scotiabank Place”…
  2. Generic corporate blandness: 86 out of the 111 stadiums for the “big 4″ professional sports leagues have generic brand names. That’s 78%. A massive majority of hard-to-differentiate place names. Try this test: tell me where the Pepsi Center is. Minute Maid Park. Gillette Stadium. See? They could be anywhere.
  3. Back to “Centre” again?  The word “Place” wasn’t exactly rocking anyone’s world, but I counted: 17 out of the 30 NHL teams play in a building called “The <Brand Name> Center” or “Centre”. That’s more than 56% of teams in the same league calling their building the same boring thing!
  4. Lack of emotion: Distinctive names aren’t just more interesting and unique, they are durable. San Francisco sports fans demanded the return of “Candlestick Park” after 3M, then Monster.com bought, then abandoned the naming rights.  That’s a strong brand!
  5. You can be creative: Scotiabank also sponsors the Saddledome in Calgary, or as they call it “Scotiabank Saddledome”.
  6. Palladium is a strong name: and this is the kicker. We once had a strong, completely unique name for the stadium, and it’s still used as the street name for the stadium itself. There is no other Palladium in North America. And “Canadian Tire Palladium” isn’t so bad is it?

But enough about me: what do you think?

Comments

  1. pippinmctaggart says:

    Mosport Raceway in Bowmanville is going through this right now. It’s been Mosport since it opened in 1961 until last year. Now it’s “Canadian Tire Motorsport Park”. Do they really expect anyone to call it that mouthful?? Not a chance. Mosport it’s always been, and Mosport it always shall be (for this generation and the next, at least).

    • @pippinmctaggart Well at least in this case, “Mosport” is still a legitimate shortened nickname of the “Motorsport” part, so I suspect that one will endure.

  2. Joe Boughner says:

    What’s far more interesting than the name on the building is what fans choose to call it. Scotiabank Place was shortened to “The Bank” by a few folk but most fans ended up calling it SBP. Hardly interesting AND useless to Scotiabank. 
     
    There’s a bit of a movement afoot already on Twitter and the local sports radio station to call the Canadian Tire Centre “The Wheelhouse” and I think if Canadian Tire and the Ottawa Senators group were smart they’d jump on board. Not in an official capacity, mind you, but working it into tweets and less formal communications would be wise. It’s clearly inspired by the official corporate name, which is a win for the brand, AND it’s a pretty badass name for a sports barn.

    • @Joe Boughner Hmm. Not sure if “The Wheelhouse” will catch on. It’s cool, but people tend to gravitate to nicknames that either abbreviate a longer name (e.g. The Big O), describe the building or a feature (e.g. The Igloo, Green Monster), or relate to the team or its history (e.g. Tampa Lightning’s “Thunderdome”, NY’s “The House that Babe Built”).
      So I’m thinking that unless the Sens decide to take my advice and go back to “Palladium”, it’s going to end up nicknamed “The Tire”.

  3. JayGarlough says:

    I do not agree that big brands pay a LOT for naming rights.   Scotiabank paid about $1.3 million per year for the Palladium rights.  Is $1.3 million really a lot to a corporation which nets 4 to 6 billion dollars per year (after taxes AND after paying all their sponsorship/naming right deals)?
     
    In 2012 less than 0.007 % of Scotiabank’s annual revenue was ‘invested’ in this branding play and Scotiabank got their name on the building.    If I were to support the Sens this year with 5% of my annual revenue I *might* get a season’s pass in the nose-bleed section.    Just to be clear, those tickets would make a ‘dent’ in my pocketbook that’s SEVEN THOUSAND TIMES greater than the financial ‘hit’ which Scotiabank took.  It is clear that the Senators do not value a hard-earned dollar from one of their fans with the same parity as a hard-earned dollar from one of their corporate sponsors.

    • @JayGarlough I’m totally with you on the fan perspective. No argument that pro sports tickets are becoming less and less an option for average fan. I *really* wanted to take my kids to a game this year, but it’s daunting indeed.
      But on the scale of the sponsorship dollars vs. overall revenue perspective Jay, I do agree that it’s a drop in that big bucket. BUT revenues are not profits, and 1-2 Million bucks annually is a sizeable chunk of change to even a big brand’s marketing budget, and for a small market team, it can make the difference between being able to afford a big name player – or a few young prospects – or not. And I guess that brings us back to the affordability problem doesn’t it?

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