Nam­ing its price

Shaw’s 10-year pact with con­ven­tion cen­tre part of a grow­ing trend

Ottawa Business Journal - - Front Page - BY DAVID SALI david@greatriver.ca

Shaw Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Inc.’s new nam­ing rights deal with Ot­tawa’s con­ven­tion cen­tre is about much more than just a place to hang a shin­gle, ex­perts say.

When it comes to Shaw Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Inc.’s new deal with the build­ing for­merly known as the Ot­tawa Con­ven­tion Cen­tre, money truly is the name of the game – for both par­ties.

Ear­lier this month, Shaw, the Al­bertabased cor­po­ra­tion that pro­vides cable, home phone and In­ter­net ser­vices to more than three mil­lion cus­tomers and owns Global Tele­vi­sion Net­work as well as 19 spe­cialty net­works, an­nounced it had inked a 10-year deal for the nam­ing rights to the city’s down­town con­fer­ence cen­tre.

The dis­tinc­tive build­ing on Colonel By Drive has earned raves since it opened in 2011 for its bold ar­chi­tec­ture and mag­nif­i­cent views of the canal and Par­lia­ment Hill. In 2012, it drew more than 300,000 vis­i­tors to more than 500 events, in­clud­ing almost 50,000 from out of town, ac­cord­ing to its an­nual re­port.

That’s a lot of eye­balls that will see Shaw’s name on sig­nage inside and out­side the build­ing – not to men­tion the thou­sands of com­muters and passersby who the drive, walk and cy­cle past the cen­tre ev­ery day.

But more just sheer num­bers, it’s the type of peo­ple who will see the Shaw name that made the con­ven­tion cen­tre at­trac­tive to the com­mu­ni­ca­tions gi­ant, lo­cal mar­ket­ing ex­perts say.

Business gath­er­ings and trade shows

“If you’re a Shaw and you’re try­ing to build your mar­ket in the east and you’re ad­ver­tis­ing in the east, what is the cost of that ad­ver­tis­ing? This is very pas­sive me­dia. You just do it once, you don’t have to up­date it. It will be present for 10 years. It’s a pretty pow­er­ful thing.”

– AL AL­BA­NIA, PRES­I­DENT, ACART COM­MU­NI­CA­TIONS

are the build­ing’s bread and but­ter, they note, and those events bring in just the kind of clien­tele Shaw wants to tar­get in its mar­ket­ing. Shaw of­fers a wide range of con­sumer ser­vices, par­tic­u­larly in western Canada, but prod­ucts such as its car­rier-grade Shaw Go WiFi net­work are an es­pe­cially good fit for a business au­di­ence, ex­perts say.

“It’s not just the mass of eye­balls,” says Gor­don McMil­lan, pres­i­dent and chief cre­ative of­fi­cer of down­town ad­ver­tis­ing agency McMil­lan. “It’s the right eye­balls.”

Shaw doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily have as high a pro­file in Ot­tawa as com­peti­tors such

as Rogers, and putting its name on a prom­i­nent build­ing is a cost-ef­fec­tive, long-term way of rais­ing its brand aware­ness, says Acart Com­mu­ni­ca­tions pres­i­dent Al Al­ba­nia.

“If you’re a Shaw and you’re try­ing to build your mar­ket in the east and you’re ad­ver­tis­ing in the east, what is the cost of that ad­ver­tis­ing?” he says. “This is very pas­sive me­dia. You just do it once, you don’t have to up­date it. It will be present for 10 years. It’s a pretty pow­er­ful thing.”

The type of com­pa­nies in­ter­ested in pur­su­ing nam­ing rights deals might vary de­pend­ing on the venue, mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sion­als say.

For ex­am­ple, TD Bank was ea­ger to be as­so­ci­ated with the new Lans­downe Park, sign­ing a mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar deal to at­tach its name to Ot­tawa’s revamped foot­ball sta­dium and hockey arena, be­cause sports events tend to at­tract a broad au­di­ence that is likely to use a wide va­ri­ety of the bank’s con­sumer ser­vices, Mr. McMil­lan says.

“That was a pretty good deal for them,” he says. “Ev­ery time there’s an event there, ev­ery con­sumer hears the word TD. And all of us are po­ten­tial tar­gets for that.”

But to­day’s nam­ing rights deals are about far more than sim­ply brand­ing a build­ing, ex­perts say. They of­ten in­volve a heavy dose of prod­uct place­ment as well.

As part of Shaw’s agree­ment with the con­ven­tion cen­tre, for ex­am­ple, vis­i­tors will get free ac­cess to the company’s wi-fi net­work in main gath­er­ing ar­eas.

“In the case of a con­ven­tion cen­tre, there’s a bit more of a business push, so I’m sure that that’s part of Shaw’s strat­egy is wi-fi,” says Mr. McMil­lan. “Nam­ing rights deals are be­com­ing much more than sim­ply putting your shin­gle on the door. They of­ten have to do with ser­vices or some­thing that kind of al­lows the clients to ex­pe­ri­ence what that ser­vice is all about. That sweet­ens the deal. For Shaw, it’s like, ‘You want to see how good our ser­vice is? Just come to the con­ven­tion cen­tre and you’ll ex­pe­ri­ence it.’ That be­comes the test of the cred­i­bil­ity of the ser­vice.”

Such deals are also be­com­ing more common at venues of all kinds. All of his firm’s ma­jor clients are in­ter­ested in get­ting their name on a pub­lic build­ing or sports venue of some sort, Mr. McMil­lan says, but that’s of­ten eas­ier said than done.

“There’s only a nar­row (range) of op­tions,” he says. “Shaw may be here, but their pref­er­ence might have been to do this in an area where they also have cable sub­scrip­tion. But there might just be noth­ing avail­able there. Or it could be that this is a foray into a new mar­ket and we’re not aware of what their plans are.”

Even the city’s new art gallery, part of the up­com­ing $100-mil­lion Arts Court re­de­vel­op­ment, is seek­ing to sell its nam­ing rights to help raise $2.5 mil­lion – the gallery’s share of the $3.2 mil­lion com­mu­nity part­ners have pledged to the project.

Whether it’s ap­pro­pri­ate for cor­po­ra­tions to at­tach their names to pub­lic build­ings is still a mat­ter of de­bate, Mr. McMil­lan con­cedes.

“There’s a pro and con to all of th­ese things,” he says. “I think there’s go­ing to be more pub­lic con­cern around some of the pub­lic spa­ces. You could ar­gue that the con­ven­tion cen­tre and Arts Court are both sim­i­lar in that re­gard, but there is a sense with a cul­tural in­sti­tu­tion such as Arts Court that it might need to be above the fray a lit­tle bit.”

Still, in a world where the pub­lic purs­es­trings are get­ting tighter ev­ery year, cash-strapped venues such as art gal­leries might start wel­com­ing any ex­tra rev­enue they can get their hands on, re­gard­less of the source.

“If I was the Arts Court, I would go after the run­ners-up to the con­ven­tion cen­tre,” Mr. Al­ba­nia says. “I would say, ‘Oh, you missed on that one, but here’s another op­por­tu­nity.’ Peo­ple’s bud­gets are stretched to the limit. I think all of us are look­ing for another way of cap­i­tal­iz­ing on a re­duc­tion of ex­pen­di­tures by al­low­ing peo­ple to use their brand to cover our (costs).”

FILE PHOTO

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