As reported by Paul Wiecek of the Winnipeg Free Press last week, the Bombers are doing great! People said it couldn’t be done. They couldn’t have been more wrong. A year ago at this time, as the trucks with Georgia licence plates were unloading hockey equipment at the MTS Centre and Winnipeg hockey fans were in the fullest throat of their delirium, the general consensus around town was the reincarnated Jets were going to hoover up every last dime of corporate money in the city and there was going to be nothing left for the other two pro sports teams in Winnipeg.
Well, flash forward a year and the Winnipeg Goldeyes are saying publicly they are doing just fine, thank you. And the Winnipeg Blue Bombers? At a news conference in the Bombers locker-room last week, the club reported corporate sponsorships have never been better. “Our sponsorships are at the highest level they’ve ever been for the Winnipeg Football Club right now,” club CEO Garth Buchko told reporters after Wednesday’s news conference. “They’ve already exceeded last year’s sponsorships for the entire year, which was our best year ever.”
Now, that’s not to say the Bombers have not had challenges in taking on the Jets behemoth for what is a very finite corporate dollar in this town. “We have seen some attrition from some sponsors who’ve cut back,” said Buchko. “I think we’ve maybe lost two or three sponsors in total. But we’ve had a significant number of new sponsors who’ve come on and increased their spending levels quite a bit.” That latter category would include the likes of Pizza Hotline’s Jerry Cianflone, who became a big Bombers sponsor this season for the first time. Cianflone said the Bombers sponsorship he bought wasn’t significantly less expensive than what a similar sponsorship might have cost with the Jets. But he said the overall Bombers brand is simply a better fit for his company. “To be honest with you, we just really felt better about dealing with the Bombers,” Cianflone said. “It’s a community (-owned) club. It’s part of our city, its part of our province. It’s who we are.
“It was a top priority for us to be part of this. We’re from here, our families live here, all our owners live here. It just made sense for us to be part of a community team like this.”
Dan Chubey, district sales manager for Labatt Breweries, said there was never any doubt his company would be continuing their sponsorship of the Bombers this season. “It all really ties hand in hand with what we obviously deliver, which is great consumption occasions for beer,” Chubey said. “Our current tagline, ‘Great times are waiting,’ fits perfect with the upcoming season for the Bombers — in the new stadium.”
The record corporate support has taken place despite unexpected delays in the construction of the new Bombers stadium. Those delays will mean at least five games (one pre-season and four regular seasons) will take place at dilapidated Canad Inns Stadium this summer — not exactly what the 2012 sponsors originally signed up for. But while they didn’t sign up for it, it hasn’t caused the sponsors to flee. “I must say we’ve had a tremendous amount of support from all our sponsors,” said Buchko. “I would say 95 per cent have stuck with us for their original sponsorship commitment. It’s blown us away. From our season-ticket holders who have stuck with us to our sponsors — I think everyone realizes we’re in this for the long-term.