Hamilton's football stadium has been dealing with an identity crisis recently. For 42 years, it was called Ivor Wynne Stadium, but it was razed to the ground in 2013. A replacement, built on the same site last year, has been dubbed Tim Hortons Field. For a few weeks this summer, though, it will be known as the CIBC Hamilton Pan Am Soccer Stadium. And then it will become Tim Hortons Field again in the fall.
Though it may bring temporary confusion to the public, the construction of several athletic venues across the GTA for the Pan American Games has given owners of those venues opportunities to raise cash through selling their naming rights. For municipalities that have paid for a portion of construction costs, selling naming rights allows them to recoup some of what they've invested and offer the stability of a steady stream of revenue over a long period. The City of Hamilton will make $15-million over the next 20 years from naming-rights revenue from its football stadium; Milton has signed a naming-rights deal with the sponsor of its new velodrome for $2-million.
But the path to big money isn't so direct; selling naming rights is a complex process that can involve analyzing traffic studies, debating contract lengths and elaborate negotiations over exactly how many pairs of free tickets are included in the deal, according to insiders. Wait too long for the right deal and you might miss your chance at a lucrative sponsorship altogether.
"What happens a lot of times with naming rights is [a venue owner] says, 'Oh we'll just slap their name on the stadium and we'll put a couple signs up and we'll give them a suite and a website banner and that's a naming right,'" says Jeff Marks, the managing director of California-based Premier Partnerships, which brokers naming-rights deals. "It's more an art than a science."
In reality, valuators, who do naming-rights deals full-time, analyze dozens of data points and create different packages to win over different sponsors. Many begin at ground zero, charting how many cars and pedestrians pass by a venue to determine how many "impressions" a corporation's sign would net.
But they also look at everything from the prestige of a facility to how going after a telecom provider as a first-tier sponsor (who would get their name on the main sign on the building) eliminates the option of getting another telecom provider as a second-tier one (who might get their name on a wing).
When Hugh Wakeham was hired by the University of Toronto and City of Toronto to put a price tag on the naming rights for the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre, which will host aquatic, fencing and roller-sports events, he also crunched numbers on other ways a corporation's name would be widely showcased: on the University of Toronto Scarborough course calendar, the City of Toronto's Fun Guide. Mr. Wakeham, who brokered naming rights deals for several Toronto venues, including the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, the Direct Energy Centre and the Panasonic Theatre, also interviewed all the tenants of the Sports Centre, to determine what sort of events and competitions they'd host, which could translate into opportunities for brand exposure.
In 2012, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats signed a deal for a new stadium (which will also host soccer events during the Pan American Games) and were so keen on getting the name of their new home right that they spent a year and a half calculating how much it was worth. The Tiger-Cats had an extensive RFP process just to find a company to do the naming-rights valuation and landed on Mr. Marks's firm, Premier Partnerships, which has handled deals for U.S. venues such as the O.co Coliseum in Oakland, the Moda Centre in Portland and TD Place in Ottawa.
Instead of looking at a wide cross-section of potential sponsors, Tiger-Cats president Scott Mitchell told Premier that there was one he already had in mind.
"Tim Hortons has been a partner of the Ticats for 20 years so in most cases when you're looking at something like this, you're going to go to your current partner first to give them an opportunity to look at it," Mr. Mitchell said.
Mr. Marks developed a plan to sell Tim Hortons on the deal: showing how acquiring naming rights of the stadium could have a wide geographic footprint throughout the City of Hamilton, where the partnership between the coffee chain and the football team could be put on prominent display.
While none of the parties involved would disclose the cost of the agreement for Tim Hortons Field, similar deals such as TD Place and Avaya Stadium in San Jose have reportedly netted owners upward of $1-million a year over multiyear contracts. The Tiger-Cats have a 20-year lease agreement with the City of Hamilton, who own the stadium, and pay the city $1.4-million a year. More than half that amount – $750,000 a year – is for a portion of the stadium's naming-rights revenue.
Even after a company has won naming rights, owners must negotiate the fine details – which vary widely from sponsor to sponsor. If a bank is granted naming rights for a facility, having its name in text on the side of the building would have one value, a logo would have more value and an LED panel advertising mortgage rates or nearest branch location would have even more value, Mr. Wakeham explained. At Tim Hortons Field, the brand's logo is marked on the field, on players' jerseys, above the scoreboard and on large signs throughout the venue.
Deals are often padded with other benefits for corporations that go beyond branding.
"If it's a car company, they might say, 'I love what you're offering to me but I need a car display included in the lobby as part of this deal.' Or if it's a soft drink company, they might say, 'I want vending machines and exclusive pouring rights at your concessions,'" Mr. Wakeham says.
Concession stands throughout Tim Hortons Field sell Tim Hortons and Cold Stone Creamery products.
There was no valuation process for the velodrome in Milton, which will host cycling events for the Pan American Games, but that's because it seemed there was only one option for the town when it came to selling the venue's naming rights.
In 2011, TO2015 approached Milton with a proposal to build the indoor track in the town, but it would require a $17.6-million contribution to cover the $56-million cost of the project. The majority of that sum was raised by a private sector group led by Peter Gilgan, chief executive of Mattamy Homes and an avid cyclist. In a separate proposal, Mattamy offered to pay the Town of Milton $2-million for naming rights for the facility over the span of two decades. The city approved.
For the duration of the games, eight Pan American venues will temporarily take on a name of one of the major sponsors of TO2015, which was part of the benefits package offered to them. A dollar value for those temporary naming rights was not broken down, a spokesman for TO2015 said. The Mattamy National Cycling Centre in Milton will become the Cisco Milton Pan Am/Parapan Am Velodrome, Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton will become the CIBC Hamilton Pan Am Soccer Stadium and the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre in Toronto will be known as the CIBC Pan Am/Parapan Am Aquatics Centre and Field House.
In Milton's case, the large Mattamy National Cycling Centre sign on the velodrome's exterior will be covered with one that broadcasts the venue's temporary name. While it is standard practice for major sporting events (with the exception of the Olympics) for owners to turn over the facility in a "clean" state to the organizing committee so they can temporarily brand it with signs from their own sponsors, it could hurt owners' chances of selling naming rights post-Games.
"It's always more difficult to sell the naming rights to a venue that's had a corporate name attached to it previously," Mr. Wakeham said. He noted that the Games are only for a few weeks, which makes it unlikely that their temporary branding will make an impact on the public.
What can be more dangerous is holding off too long on getting a sponsor on board.
Mr. Wakeham completed his valuation report for the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre in October, 2012, but the for-profit company that operates the facility hasn't yet begun soliciting sponsorships. Markham's Pan Am Centre and Ajax's Pan Am Ball Park will carry the names of Atos and President's Choice respectively during the Games, but neither municipality has yet pursued a corporate naming rights deal for the long term.
Without a sponsor's name tied to it, the public often gets used to calling a venue by its non-corporate name and might be resistant to embracing a new one later. A decade after being rebranded as the Rogers Centre, many baseball fans still call it the SkyDome. What's more, Mr. Marks points out, is that venues have a shelf life and can go "stale."
"You can only go to a CEO or a decision maker once," he says. "If you go back, [years] later to sell them that same thing, they're like, 'Hold on, why is it still out there?'"