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Toronto Raptors forward Patrick Patterson (54) goes to make a basket as Detroit Pistons forward Josh Smith (6) looks on during the first half at the Air Canada Centre. (John E. Sokolowski/USA Today Sports)
Toronto Raptors forward Patrick Patterson (54) goes to make a basket as Detroit Pistons forward Josh Smith (6) looks on during the first half at the Air Canada Centre. (John E. Sokolowski/USA Today Sports)

Persuasion Notebook

Sid Lee tapped to head Toronto Raptors' rebranding campaign Add to ...

Persuasion Notebook offers quick hits on the business of persuasion from The Globe and Mail’s marketing and advertising reporter, Susan Krashinsky. Read more on The Globe’s marketing page and follow Susan on Twitter @Susinsky.

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment has hired an advertising agency to lead the rebranding of the Toronto Raptors.

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Sid Lee Toronto announced that it had been hired for the project on Wednesday.

The agency has been doing some work with MLSE lately: It produced a series of commercials to celebrate this week’s announcement that Toronto FC had hired high-profile player Jermain Defoe away from Tottenham Hotspur, in a bid to strengthen the struggling soccer team.

MLSE will now be expanding its work with Sid Lee, which will be tasked with advertising around key events and announcements, agency president and founding partner Vito Piazza said in an interview.

“This is going to be an ongoing relationship,” he said. “... Now with the Raptors rebranding being confirmed, that cements the relationship.”

Sid Lee pitched for the Raptors business just before Christmas.

The agency will be responsible for a wide range of tasks including designing the new visual identity of the team – including a new logo – as well as new uniforms.

It will be some time before those changes are visible to Toronto fans, however. The National Basketball Association has a strict system of approvals in place for teams’ visual identities and for any changes to team brands. A new logo and other visual elements will also mean many changes to the team’s merchandise at the retail level. That will be in a couple of years, the agency said.

Last year, the Raptors appointed rapper Drake as the global ambassador for the brand, who would be directly involved in the rebranding of the team.

The agency has already met with Drake once.

“In that meeting, it became clear that he takes it very seriously, and he knows what he’s talking about,” Mr. Piazza said. “He’s an ambassador in terms of his celebrity status, but he’s also really thought about it.”

The strategy of appointing a celebrity to a marketing role has been a trend for companies recently, but it has not always borne fruit. This month, BlackBerry announced that it was ending its relationship with its “creative director,” the singer Alicia Keys – a relationship that some in the advertising industry said never made sense for the brand.

According to Sid Lee, however, the partnership between Drake and the Raptors is a better fit. The agency will now be tasked with working around the rapper’s schedule to involve him in the branding process.

“The biggest difference here is that Drake and MLSE are coming from the right place,” said Sid Lee Toronto’s head of strategy, Dustin Rideout. “Drake bleeds the 416 ... does he have a very relevant cultural place that he can infuse into this? Absolutely.”

Sid Lee’s other clients include Absolut Vodka, Burger King Canada, Sport Chek, and Adidas.

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