The Fountain Pen, Guelph's On-Line News

Naming Rights, Sponsorship and Sports

Web posted on June 08, 2017

A Curmudgeon's View

By Les Enekes

The naming rights that have become associated with almost every arena, sports stadium and many events are really starting to bother me. Some cities are even considering naming rights for parks and other facilities. While I can understand the concept, I feel it diminishes the value of the event or facility. Marketing has once again reared its ugly head. I would prefer to think that the owners of the venues are renting space on their buildings or at their events. Then when the contract ends, they rent that space to someone else. I realize that Rented Name sounds a bit awkward, but it gets the idea across. I like it better than Sponsors Name facility.

Maple Leaf Gardens (when that team name meant something) was Hallowed Ground, that arena with an airline's name on it is just another Rented Name Arena. Tiger Stadium was Hallowed Ground, that stadium named after a bank, is just another Rented Name Stadium. There was a time when arenas and stadiums had names fans could be proud of such as the Montreal Forum or Texas Stadium just to name a couple. At one point arenas and stadiums were named to honour people who had made a significant contribution to the community.

There are many Rented Name Facilities out there that have changed names numerous times. A football stadium in Miami comes to mind, as does a hockey arena in Ottawa. I am as far as one can get from being a Yankees fan, but I have the greatest respect for the organization in keeping the name Yankee Stadium alive with their new stadium. I am sure that if they had not kept the name, there would have been rioting in the streets of the Bronx. Maybe that's what it would take to restore sanity. On the other hand there is the owner of the Dallas Cowboys who sold out the name of the new stadium (it was called Cowboys Stadium briefly) to a communications company. There is no sense of history out there, just greed. Look at what they did in Buffalo after the team owner died. It is no longer Ralph Wilson Stadium. They got some company to rent space on the side of the stadium.

If a company wants to have their name on a facility, then they should build it, own it, and run it. That I could respect. Otherwise, it is merely building with a company name on it and I absolutely refuse to mention that company's name, and will avoid using their product(s) whenever possible.

The same holds true for golf tournaments (by the way what make a golf tournament a "classic?") and NASCAR, oops I mean Redneck Racing (by now you know that I am an open wheel racing fan: Formula 1, Indy Car, even riding lawnmowers, everything else is the minor leagues) events. All you see is the sponsor's name, and no idea where they are playing or racing. Sometimes the sponsor is so local that one has no idea who they are, and there is no way I am going to waste any time looking them up. Once again, it diminishes the value of the event.

I realize that event sponsorship has been around for many years, mostly for major events. Now everyone wants to get involved to the point where the corporate names dominate with the actual event taking second place. Events without a corporate name attached are now the exception.

This is one of the many reasons that I am turning away from most professional sporting events. I have not watched a Stupor Bore (except for National Anthem, just to see how badly the singer will strangle the cat) in years. The same is true for the Grey Cup. The hockey season is way too long. Many years ago the playoffs used to end before Victoria Day. When they extended past the 24th of May, I stopped watching the playoffs. As far as I am concerned, there hasn't been a Stanley Cup winner in years.

Baseball is still worth watching at times. At least the playoffs don't last for months, otherwise we would be having the World Series at Christmas. Last season the Jays did what all Toronto teams excel at: choke. After a very slow start they are getting better, but will it be enough to make the playoffs? OK, here is a case where Rogers does actually does own the stadium, but they could at least they could have called it the Rogers Skydome (I still call it the Skydome). I have no idea what the stadium is the "centre" of. I really don't like use of the word "centre" or "center" (south of the border) when associated with any facility.

Watching basketball, tennis, curling, and golf have never held much interest. I do watch some of the Olympic Games, and even some World Cup games because they only happen every four years.

Then there was the World Cup of Hockey. The format did nothing for me. It really wasn't worth getting excited about, and I couldn't be bothered watching. It was just another money grab by the NHL. They already have the world championships every year, plus the Olympics (the only real hockey left as far as I am concerned). They have now decided to opt out of going to next year's Olympic Winter Games in South Korea. The players want to go, the fans want to see them play. This will certainly kill a fair chunk of the ratings in Canada. The broadcasters and sponsors who paid premium prices for the rights to the games should be demanding a lot of their money back. If we don't send a competitive hockey team most fans will not watch.

Here is a crazy suggestion; for the three weeks that the NHL (No Hockey League) would have shut down to send the players to the Olympics fans should opt out of going to NHL games or watching them on TV. Give them three weeks of empty arenas and no TV ratings. The only time the team owners will take notice is when it hurts the bottom line. They don't care what the fans say as long as they fill the seats. I really hope that this decision comes back to bite them. The NHL needs a good swift kick in the you know what.

They lost me as a fan a long time ago. The season became too long, they expanded to the deserts and swampland, and there were the strikes and the lockout. With the takeover of Canadian broadcast rights for the NHL by a certain cable company, I have just about stopped watching hockey. I will still try to catch Don Cherry on occasion.

They could have picked a better name for that new hockey team in Las Vegas. Desert Rats, Scorpions, Sidewinders, or even Varmints would have been a much better choice.

The only sport I follow with any regularity is open wheel car racing such as Formula 1 and Indy Car when the races are on a street course. Unfortunately, the broadcasters feel fit to only show a fraction of these races. There are Canadian drivers in both Indy Car and Formula 1. As I have mentioned in the past I have absolutely no use for redneck racing. They don't even have any full time Canadian drivers. Yet there is a redneck race polluting the airwaves almost every weekend. We get to see that type of traffic and crashes on the 401 traffic cameras most days at rush hour and on holiday weekends, and for the most part it is far more interesting than a bunch of cars going around in a circle crashing into each other. A good race should be dominated by skilful driving, not crashes.

Those billboards behind the interview or speakers area are extremely annoying and distracting. I really don't understand what they are trying to prove. Many are so full of logos that whatever is happening in front is lost. I would prefer to see a nice neutral background that does not detract from the message of the speaker. When I see a company logo, it tells me to avoid their product.

Stop using the rented names for the venues and stop buying their products. This is your chance to fight back against the marketing mad men. Besides, all that sponsorship and the advertising inside the venue have done nothing to keep the price of tickets at a reasonable and affordable level. Prices just keep going up. The Leafs just raised their ticket prices. Unfortunately, they could double their ticket prices and still fill the arena. The average person cannot afford to go to a game anymore. There was a recent news report that a beer will cost you twelve dollars at Blue Jays' games. I wouldn't pay that much for a ticket.

Then there are the billionaire team owners who keep blackmailing cities to pay for a new facility by threatening to move the team. They have the money, the cities don't. This seems to be happening somewhere almost every year. If they don't get their way, they just pack up and move the team. So much for loyalty to the fans.

Our downtown Rented Name Arena should have a name we can be proud of. Perhaps it could be named after someone who made a significant contribution to Guelph, or helped put Guelph on the map. I could even live with "Sponsored by our local brewery that is owned by a Japanese company" in very small letters (no bigger than this font) under the name, if I had to, reluctantly, very reluctantly. Just a thought.

One more thing. The company that owns our local TV station and the one down the road in London has decided to do away with their coverage of local sports. This is a huge mistake. For the local teams and individuals this is a big deal. These are the people who need the coverage. The CRTC should have put a stop to this the day the stations announced the changes. The coverage of local news must include local sports as well. Once again, the CRTC is not doing anything to protect the consumer. While I am not a fan of pro sports, I do feel that the local teams must be recognized for their efforts especially the high school athletes.

Les Enekes can be reached directly by owl. For those not owl equipped, he can be reached at

The views of columnists in The Fountain Pen do not necessarily represent the views of the principals of the publication.

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