Addicted to novelty since 2001

Building Sponsors are Getting Crappier

Would somebody please find or write an article on the history of building sponsorship? I’d like to read one. I remain utterly unconvinced that paying large sums to get your name on a sports or cultural facility is worthwhile.

Here in Vancouver, the local NHL team plays in GM Place. Ironically, the term is so common that I never, ever associate the building with a car company. It doesn’t help that lots of people call it The Garage as well.

I have no proof, but I feel like some larger corporations are starting to agree with me. Witness these recent BC renamings:

Those first two aren’t exactly household names, are they? I’m thinking that the sponsorship bar has maybe been lowered in recent years?

But then there’s the whole ill-advised renaming of ScienceWorld to TelusSphere. I haven’t heard a single person use the latter term, unless they’re speaking pejoratively. When I hop on the harbour ferry, I still ask for ScienceWorld and the guy still takes me there.

UPDATE: I just saw The Simpsons episode Helter Shelter, in which the family attends a hockey game at “Gee Your Hair Looks Terrific Arena”. Then, of course, the termites attack.

8 Responses to “Building Sponsors are Getting Crappier”

  1. -j.

    As of last week, the SkyTrain station and recorded announcement still said “Science World” as well.

  2. donna

    Many moons ago, I worked for a little ISP in Victoria. They made a deal, with many, many loopholes for escaping later, to have the local arena renamed after their company.

    Sure enough, this never actually happened, but my employers got GREAT publicity over it.

  3. Darren

    Donna: I don’t deny that there’s PR value in doing it–I just don’t think it’s a very wise way to spend one’s money. For example, the Interior Savings deal is for $1.2 million for 10 years. I just think there are definitely better ways to spend $120,00 a year in marketing in PR.

  4. Jeff Running

    You could make the same statement about Super Bowl commercials. If I had to choose between a thirty second commercial and a stadium name I’d choose the stadium. The main goal is a display of power. Companies do many things that make little sense when reviewed independently of the bigger picture. Naming rights are often a show of support for the surrounding community. It tells every local that this company is the best and biggest company in the area and this is where you want to work.

  5. Darren

    Jeff: I don’t follow. GM doesn’t have any plants in BC, as far as I know. So, I’m doubtful they named the 20,000-seat hockey stadium for recruiting efforts.

    I concur that the naming rights are always part of a larger campaign. Importantly, however, I don’t think it’s an effective part. For example, I don’t even know what “Industrial Alliance” does, and I’m a fairly regular attendee at the Stanley (I note they also have naming rights to a, oh God, longhouse).

    Ultimately, the point is that, like so many marketing activities, naming rights aren’t easily measured. I’d rather spend most of $1.2 million where I could evaluate the return.

    This is a profoundly stupid example, but I guarantee that GM sells more cars by spending $1.2 million on Google AdWords than on a stadium name.

  6. Andrea

    I don’t think $1.2 million for a 10-year deal is so bad for Interior Savings. In smaller communities, this sort of thing can have a big impact. Every concert, sports event, tradeshow and mention of the stadium will reinforce the Interior Savings name. Radio, newspaper and community TV broadcasts of local hockey games will include the Interior Savings name. The signage is basically a permanent billboard and, on the interior, they’ll have ice surface, signs, and other materials. They probably also have some other deals. This also helps the credit union fulfill its mandate of supporting community organizations (especially youth and sports, which are faves for credit unions) — while getting advertising in exchange. In a small community, a move like this can have a big impact. There aren’t enough media outlets in Kamloops to get this much coverage otherwise.

    As for Industrial Alliance, their target markets are probably grey hairs. So it might not be such a bad move. I’m not so sure, though.

  7. Heather

    I can’t say I like the trend, but it appears to be here to stay. I think that building sponsorship works better when it is a new facility. Here in Toronto we have the Air Canada Centre, it has always be the Air Canada Cantre, and while sometimes it is affectionately refered to as “the Hanger”, it is more commonly called the “ACC”. However, the Skydome has been renamed the Rogers Centre. No one calls it that. In fact many people are very confused (getting that completely blank face look) when it is called the Rogers Centre. Everyone still calls it the Skydome and I suspect they will continue to call it the Skydome for a very, very, very long time. I think Rogers would have been better off keeping Skydome somewhere in the name.

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