This month Rogers Communications sought to expand its grasp on the western Canadian market by acquiring the rights to the hockey arena where the Vancouver Canucks play. Formerly known as General Motors Place, the newly-christened Rogers Arena is part of a ten-year sponsorship deal between the Canucks and Rogers as the communications company seeks to gain new ground on unfamiliar territory. In addition to the naming rights deal, Rogers has also partnered with the Canucks on telecommunications sponsorship and broadcast rights via Rogers Sportsnet. Part of the deal will also enable Rogers customers to access exclusive Canucks information through their wireless phones, although specifics have not yet been disclosed.
The sponsorship signing by Rogers is a smart move for the communications company to make for several reasons. First, the association with the Canucks will help to expand their influence in western Canada, as Rogers is not as well known compared to other communications competitors such as Telus, which is based out of British Columbia. Second, through their additional sponsorship of telecommunications and broadcast rights, as well as their desire to seek radio broadcast rights when those become available, Rogers has ensured their name will be affiliated with the Canucks brand in every possible way. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the availability of exclusive Canucks information through Rogers Wireless will ensure continued customer loyalty as well as the possibility of attracting new local customers. With this sponsorship deal, Rogers adds another Canadian sports landmark to an already impressive list, including the Rogers Centre where the Toronto Blue Jays play. Hopefully their actions will encourage other Canadian telecom companies to seek stadium sponsorships to compete with Rogers.
An important point for sponsors to be wary of, however, is that changing the name of a stadium may do more harm than good if the feelings of the fans are not taken into consideration. A study by Performance Research in the U.S. and U.K. revealed one in five fans did not agree that sponsors have the right to change the name of the stadium because of their sponsorship. While a move from GM Place to Rogers Arena may not have as large an impact as the change is from sponsor name to sponsor name, companies should be aware of the possibility of backlash should they try to change a more traditionally-named stadium.