With the devastation of the sports scene worldwide, due to precautions taken to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the anticipated financial losses could hit 100 billion dollars worldwide if this continues into the fall. While it is not expected to last that long the losses are rising exponentially and owners, athletes and assorted support industries are very concerned.
The problem is bigger than numbers, sports is one of the glues that holds civilization together. People of all financial stations, ethnicities, religions and nationalities rally together under the banner of their favourite teams. Without this glue in place, issues arise that threaten social structures. With this in mind I would like to share with you a plan the NHL, NBA and MLB are considering to help themselves through this. The NFL, at this point, has decided to stay on the sidelines.
I first uncovered this plan on March 25th in a seemingly innocuous statement on 31 Thoughts: The Podcast. With Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman. The conversation went like this:
Marek: Elliotte have you heard that the management of Cirque De Soleil, Aldo and Hydro Quebec have had meetings with Geoff Molson about buying a piece of the Habs?
Friedman: I heard about the meeting, but I think it involves some naming rights discussions, but I’m not sure what those rights might be.
Working as a security consultant for Yahoo Sports I decided to investigate by using my connections. I contacted a Montrealer whom I shall call Herve because he has requested anonymity. His information was fascinating. To raise over a billion dollars the NBA, NHL and MLB have agreed to a five-year window of naming rights for the very teams themselves. The price per team was based on the highest bidder in an auction. According to Herve, a number of teams have completed their auctions – Shopify has bought the five-year naming rights for the Ottawa Senators and will most likely be retitled The Ottawa Senators brought to you by Shopify. Shopify, a local Ottawa company, has requested the Ottawa Shopify Senators, but that is yet to be decided.
My favourite insight (other than the Habs info) is that Canadian Tire has paid 65 million dollars to the Maple Leafs. The final name has not been chosen but I love that they will share a name with their rivals (The Toronto Canadian Tire Maple Leafs?).
The bidding for the Montreal Canadiens has been intense. The Habs are considered a worldwide iconic franchise in line with Manchester United and what has started as a bidding war between Cirque and Hydro Quebec has been turned on its head by a bid of 100 million dollars by Google. The thought of the Habs being called the Montreal Google Canadiens just sounds ridiculous. Herve had no idea if that would be the name, but the thought brings me shudders.
For more info check yesterday’s National Press sports section in the Vancouver Edition and an article titled, “Local Company Lululemon Athletica has joined with the Vancouver Canucks to bring back hockey.” Another article, in French, in La Presse in Saturday’s paper written by Boisvert discusses United Airlines paying Manchester United for a new uniform that incorporates an airplane with United colours.
As I walked back to my hotel with Herve I had so many mixed feelings about this attempt to bring sports back when its time is right. I stopped, sadly looked down at my feet and said, “Herve, it all feels like a joke.” Then I looked up to see his reaction … and he was gone.