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Bank of Nova Scotia and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. (MLSE) announced this week that Air Canada Centre in Toronto will become the Scotiabank Arena next July 1. The price tag for the 20-year renaming of the entertainment facility is $800-million.

The Globe and Mail has reported that a total of eight companies, including Air Canada, were interested in the facility naming rights. The number of suitors undoubtedly escalated the asking price. Air Canada has been paying about $4-million a year for its naming rights.

Is Bank of Nova Scotia's noteworthy sponsorship investment advisable?

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Primary corporate objectives of sponsorship are to enhance awareness of a brand, and its image. The home of the Maple Leafs and Raptors is undeniably among Canada's busiest sports and entertainment venues. Since the facility's opening in 1999, an estimated 3,500 events have taken place with more than 50 million people attending. And far larger audiences follow the facility's events digitally and on television.

Scotiabank has established a dominating presence among principal consumer and stakeholder touchpoints. Consider various leisurely pursuits: Scotiabank is likely to come to mind if you're watching your child play minor hockey, viewing an NHL game, attending a major concert or visiting the movies.

Scotiabank has partnered with Cineplex Entertainment so that the movie-going experience is linked with the financial company. The partnership agreement includes the Scene loyalty-rewards program, accompanying debit and credit cards and several rebranded Scotiabank Theatres.

The Scotiabank brand is also strongly aligned with hockey. The financial company is already identified with the home of the Calgary Flames: the Scotiabank Saddledome. Additionally, Scotiabank is a Canadian corporate marketing partner of the NHL and the sponsor of Canada's Hockey Day in Canada broadcasts, and its support extends to community hockey teams and youth leagues across the country.

Scotiabank's direct competitor, BMO Financial Group, is strategically linked with soccer by sponsoring youth leagues and serving as the jersey sponsor of Major League Soccer's Montreal Impact as well as Toronto FC, which plays at BMO Field. Soccer draws diverse target markets, and the sport has overtaken hockey in youth enrolment. But it does not compare with hockey when it comes to passion, cultural identity and pride in the country's success on the world stage.

Sponsorship partnerships usually come with product category exclusivity, yet BMO Financial will persist as the most visible sponsor of Toronto FC (which is also owned by MLSE) and the longer-term status of existing on-court BMO branding adjacent to the Raptors bench remains uncertain. Unusually, majority ownership of MSLE is shared by direct competitors (Rogers Communications Inc. and Bell Canada).

The MLSE and Scotiabank partnership expands far beyond placing a brand name on a building. But it is interesting to ponder what metrics Scotiabank will adopt to evaluate the return on its $800-million investment. While Scotiabank's goal of enhancing brand awareness is achievable and justified, fulfilling the objective of image enhancement appears less obvious.

The Air Canada brand has apparent patriotic associations such as hockey and the Raptors, being Canada's lone NBA franchise. As Air Canada Centre, the facility became commonly known as the ACC and former Raptors star Vince Carter, known for his impressive leaping ability and slam dunks, was referred to as "Air Canada."

Scotiabank's brand associations are less obviously aligned and transferable from the MLSE facility and its roster of events and entertainment performers. The Scotiabank Arena doesn't present an immediate alternative moniker and the name does little to distinguish Toronto's facility from the Scotiabank Centre (home of the Halifax Mooseheads from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League) or Scotiabank Place (the former name of the Canadian Tire Centre, which is the home of the NHL's Ottawa Senators).

Nevertheless, given the magnitude of this newly announced partnership and revenue of MLSE – or reflecting current Raptors star Kyle Lowry's recent signing of a three-year, $100-million (U.S.) contract – "The Vault" stands out as a possibility.

Finally, an unpredictable and risky consideration in assessing the value of the sponsorship partnership is whether the Maple Leafs can win a Stanley Cup within the next 20 years under a Scotiabank banner.

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