Canadian Tire and Senators Sports & Entertainment have announced a new strategic partnership that will see the former Scotiabank Place rebranded as the Canadian Tire Centre – but that’s just the beginning.
The deal will thoroughly integrate Canadian Tire and its umbrella brands into the Sentaors’ fan experience. Sport Chek and Sports Experts will become the exclusive “Team Development Sponsor” with tie-ins at the NHL draft and training camps; Mark’s will become the Centre’s exclusive outfitter, with arena staff wearing Denver Hayes and Wind River clothing; and the arena kitchens will be known as the “Canadian Tire Kitchen,” where Canada’s largest kitchen store will test out new products and shoot commercials. Even the Centre’s pub and restaurant, Frank Finnegan’s, will be rebranded as the Sport Chek Sports Bar & Grill.
“Had they just pitched a naming-rights deal, we would have said no,” said Duncan Fulton, Canadian Tire’s senior vice-president corporate affairs. “But when we looked at the suite of community activations that we could do together, it was incredibly attractive.”
Fulton suggested other brands with arena deals haven’t pushed for more exclusivity and promotions because they haven’t had the diversity of products and audiences that Canadian Tire’s brands do. All but one Canadian NHL Arena (Rexall Place in Edmonton) is named for a bank or telecom company, which don’t have the same opportunities for cross-promotions that a sports retailer does.
Meanwhile, Canadian Tire has been “going on the offensive in sport,” said Fulton. In 2011 it acquired Forzani Group, including Sport Chek and Athletes World, for $771M, and then laid plans to open 100 new Sport Cheks, increasing its sports division’s total retail space by half. Earlier this year it announced major commitments to Canada’s Olympic and Paralympic teams, as well as the Canadian Soccer Association, Hockey Canada, Canada Snowboard, and several other amateur sports organizations.
The Sens deal extends to digital and broadcast media, with Canadian Tire becoming the title sponsor for all Sens Sportsnet broadcasts in Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada. Canadian Tire will be working with the Sens’ digital team as well, with lots of featured content during the NHL draft and training camps.
Fulton sees the deal as a chance for Canadian Tire’s brands to operate together under one roof, and to develop high-level consumer strategies that work for families and communities.
“There’s really very few limits on what we’re going to be able to do,” he said.
Promotions planned for the new Centre include coupons attached to parking ticket stubs and a “Ride the Canadian Tire Zamboni” contest. Canadian Tire’s Jumpstart Charities and the Sens Foundation also plan to support community initiatives like Future Sens and I Love to Skate, which help underprivileged kids get access to sports.