By JAMES BRADSHAW, SUSAN KRASHINSKY ROBERTSON
Tuesday, August 7, 2018
Toronto-Dominion Bank and the Toronto Blue Jays are in the final stages of talks to expand a sponsorship deal that would secure TD's status as the official bank of the baseball club.
Since 2013, TD has been the exclusive financial-institution sponsor of the team, allowing the bank to promote its brand inside the stadium with amenities such as TDbranded premium seating for season ticket holders.
As the existing deal came up for renewal, the Blue Jays launched a competitive process and gauged interest from a number of companies, according to sources with knowledge of the process. Even as the Jays' on-field prospects are in decline, their value to sponsors appears to be on the rise. Other banks that had early discussions about securing the sponsorship included Royal Bank of Canada and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.
After extended negotiations, TD has emerged as the apparent winner, although it is unclear whether all terms of the deal have been finalized, or for how long TD may have extended its sponsorship rights. Two sources familiar with the process suggested TD could wind up paying as much as $20-million annually for the privilege of keeping its name attached to the team, although there is no certainty the bank would agree to an amount that high.
Price tags for major sports-sponsorship agreements have been escalating as marketers look for new ways to stand out to consumers in an increasingly crowded and fragmented media market.
Last year, Bank of Nova Scotia agreed to shell out $800-million over 20 years for a package that included rights to rename what is now Scotiabank Arena - the former Air Canada Centre, home to the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors. The deal also makes Scotiabank the official bank sponsor of both of those teams.
Other Canadian banks have also played the sport-sponsorship game.
Bank of Montreal is a backer of all three Canadian franchises in Major League Soccer, and Toronto FC plays its games at BMO Field. RBC is the title sponsor of Canada's most prestigious professional golf tournament. TD holds the naming rights on a football stadium in Ottawa and the Boston arena that is home to the city's NHL and NBA teams.
Blue Jays owner Rogers Communications Inc. has explored the possibility of selling the rights to rename Rogers Centre, where the team plays its home games.
Team officials have urged Rogers to look at new ways to increase revenue, as the stadium generates less income from sources such as concessions than most other ballparks in Major League Baseball and will soon need major renovations.
Had Rogers agreed to allow TD or another bank to place its name on the outside of the building, in tandem with in-stadium sponsorship rights, it could have substantially increased the value of any deal. But multiple sources said the telecommunications giant will almost certainly keep the Rogers name on the building, citing its importance to the company's brand and to the family legacy left by the late Ted Rogers.
Spokespeople for TD, the Blue Jays and Rogers all declined to comment.
It is more likely that the Blue Jays are focused on getting the best return possible from in-stadium advertising. And in that regard, the timing of negotiations with TD could be considered both a blessing and a curse.
On one hand, the Blue Jays have endured a mostly dismal season and begun a rebuilding process that could keep the team from being truly competitive for some time, making it harder to attract eyeballs to its sponsors.
At the same time, price tags on sports deals continue to get more lucrative. Scotiabank's deal, at $40-million a year, is 10 times the $4-million a year that Air Canada paid to mount its name on the same building for the past decade. And the NBA's Golden State Warriors - one of the hottest sports franchises in North America - accepted US$300-million over 20 years from JPMorgan Chase to name its new arena the Chase Centre.
Bank sponsorship of the Leafs, Raptors and Toronto FC - as well as naming rights to their stadiums - is now locked up for the long term. That makes competition for any opportunities that remain in Canada, and Toronto in particular, even more intense.
TD's willingness to pay a steeper price may also stem from the fact that it has an extensive U.S.
retail banking network. With roughly 1,300 branches stretching the length of the eastern seaboard, it may be a good strategy to be seen as a supporter of the U.S. national pastime by baseball fans in cities such as Boston, New York and Tampa Bay - all divisional rivals of the Blue Jays.
TD BANK (TD) CLOSE: $76.91, DOWN 24¢
Kevin Pillar of the Toronto Blue Jays dives for the ball at Rogers Centre in Toronto in August, 2017.
TOM SZCZERBOWSKI/ GETTY IMAGES