Let’s be clear off the hop here: the Jays are not the Maple Leafs. Economically, that is. The renaissance the team has experienced over the last three seasons has been incredible, and I’m sure a great financial windfall for Rogers — thanks largely to the enormous TV ratings the club pulls in for Sportsnet. But as a brand, and as a branding opportunity — as a brand you want to get your brand next to — the Jays just aren’t in the same stratosphere.
This is even more so when a second MLSE property, i.e. the Raptors, is involved in your corporate branding exercise. And when yours is the home to all kinds of concerts and other events as well. The Jays couldn’t possibly match that kind of branding clout!
But… uh… the Jays don’t necessarily have to match that kind of branding clout to be able to do something pretty damned lucrative. Like, say, some kind of naming rights deal on their ballpark — like the one MLSE just announced for the soon-to-be-former Air Canada Centre, which for the small sum of $800 million will be officially called the Scotiabank Arena for the next 20 years. (As of next July 1st).
Now, I can’t sit here and cry foul that Rogers is pocketing anything on quite that order because they conveniently get free naming rights on the baseball stadium they own. As far as I can tell, this deal dwarfs just about any other naming rights deal in North American sports. A year ago the Houston Chronicle listed the richest naming rights deals on the continent, placing the $21 million per year the Mets get from Citibank at the top. The next two on the list, the Brooklyn Nets’ Barclays Center, and the Jets and Giants’ MetLife Stadium, are all in the same ballpark ($20 million and $19 million per year respectively), but the list drops significantly after that; the fourth-ranked Houston Texans get just $12 million per year for calling their home Reliant Stadium. This new MLSE deal nets the Leafs and Raptors almost $32 million per year! (No, my math isn’t wrong: $40 million in Canadian dollars is $31.8 million US).
That’s wild! And while I can’t claim to have the foggiest idea how the internal accounting at Rogers works, with respect to the Jays’ parent company getting the stadium’s naming rights presumably by default, this… uh… seems like a pretty big revenue stream that currently isn’t available to the club. “To be honest, it wasn’t that difficult to find interested suitors,” said David Hopkinson, MLSE’s chief commercial officer, according to TSN’s Rick Westhead, who broke the story this afternoon. *COUGH*
Hell, Rogers doesn’t even necessarily need to give up their branding on the ballpark. How about calling it something like TD Field at Rogers Centre? Then all you’ve got to do is ask TD to pony up enough cash to cover the cost of installing real grass and… holy shit! You’re in business!
I mean, clearly this is all just a pipe dream. But I don’t know! Maybe the Scotiabank deal is a real game-changer. Either way, it sure as hell isn’t a good look for Rogers to have the teams down the street making this much coin off of naming rights, while they gets some not insignificant measure of the benefits Scotiabank saw in doing their deal, while putting back in what, exactly? I mean, obviously, Rogers and the Jays are shelling out more in payroll than ever ($163 million this season), and are spending big on stadium renovations, but much like whatever the club gets because of the massive TV ratings they generate for Sportsnet, it’s impossible to say whether the team is actually being done right by. And while there are certain advantages to this relationship — some teams get locked into long-term broadcast or naming rights deals that end up being bad for them — uh… LET’S SEE SOME OF THESE BIG NAMING RIGHTS DOLLARS, AMIRIGHT JAYS???