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Canada Toronto’s Molson Amphitheatre to change name to Budweiser Stage

Drake preforms at the OVO Fest at Molson Amphitheatre, August 5, 2012 in Toronto. The stage is a high-profile venue during the summer months, attracting major acts.

Brett Gundlock/The Globe and Mail

A Toronto icon is changing its name – and the beer flowing from its concession taps.

Starting with the 2017 summer concert season, Molson Canadian Amphitheatre will be known as the Budweiser Stage.

Labatt Breweries of Canada and Live Nation Entertainment – which owns the venue and leases the land from the Government of Ontario – announced the new multiyear sponsorship deal on Friday. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

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The stage is a high-profile venue during the summer months, attracting major acts that last year included Dolly Parton, The Dixie Chicks, Black Sabbath, Weezer, Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa, among others.

Related: Vancouver to develop list of assets eligible for sponsorship, naming rights

Read more: Molson ad faces off with Labatt over national loyalty

In addition to renaming the popular open-air concert venue, Budweiser also plans to work with Live Nation to promote its brand in conjunction with roughly 1,200 music events across Canada, with the goal of reaching 3.5 million people per year. Budweiser will now be the lead beer sponsor at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver, for example, and at festivals such as One Love in Calgary and Trackside in London, Ont.

Budweiser is already a sponsor of the North by Northeast music festival in Toronto, the Storm music festival in China, the electronic music festival Tomorrowland in Belgium, and the Made In America festival in the United States. The company sees growing importance in sponsorships such as these, to reach younger customers who are skeptical of traditional advertising.

"Experiences are the new currency," Todd Allen, Labatt's new vice-president of marketing, said in an interview. "Any time we can bring a branded experience aligned to the passion points of our consumers … is something we're definitely looking to do more of."

It's the first time in the Toronto venue's history that its name has changed. The Molson Canadian Amphitheatre opened in May of 1995 with two sold-out concerts from Bryan Adams. It replaced a smaller venue called the Forum – known for its rotating round stage – which had stood on the Ontario Place grounds since the amusement park opened on the shores of Lake Ontario in 1971. The new venue had twice the capacity of the Forum, with space for 16,000 people; 9,000 in seats and 7,000 on the lawn.

In 2011, concert space in the area expanded just to the east of the amphitheatre with the addition of TD Echo Beach, which is not affected by this deal.

Molson's sponsorship deal expired at the end of 2016. Mr. Allen said the new arrangement for the venue had been in the works for some time.

The deal includes an agreement to add more concession stands to the venue and to offer more cashless payment options such as mobile apps and tap-enabled credit- and debit-card machines. The partnership also includes a plan for earlier opening times at the venue with preshow entertainment that could include performances from smaller local acts, and a program called "Bud and Burgers," encouraging people to buy combos to eat before shows.

The sponsorship means that beverages owned by Labatt parent company, Anheuser-Busch InBev SA, will be sold, including Budweiser and Bud Light, Mill Street, Stella Artois, Goose Island, Brickworks Cider and Budweiser Prohibition Brew, though it does not give the company exclusivity at concessions.

The name switch will begin immediately with changes to how coming shows are promoted. Changes to signage and concessions should be ready by the summer.

Over the course of 36 winter days Toronto's BMO Field hosted the CFL Grey Cup, two MLS playoffs games and the NHL's Centennial Classic outdoor hockey game. The technicians who care for the natural grass at the stadium worked overnight to convert and maintain the playing surface.
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