As reported by Jen Skerritt of the Winnipeg Free Press, the City of Winnipeg sponsorship program is not working. A British Columbia researcher has called Winnipeg’s sponsorship program “lacklustre” and said the city has not seen much revenue from something initially expected to generate upwards of $1 million annually. University of Victoria associate geography professor Reuben Rose-Redwood looked at Winnipeg’s sponsorship program as part of a study to see whether small- to medium-sized cities benefit from things such as naming-rights agreements. He spent two weeks in Winnipeg last summer researching the program and said his preliminary findings show it has not been as successful as policy makers say.
Rose-Redwood said Winnipeg’s sponsorship program has had little impact on boosting the city’s overall budget, noting the amount the city has received is small compared to what it spends to do business with some of these companies. While the city has received $2 million in sponsorship commitments, Rose-Redwood said the program was initially expected to generate more than $1 million a year. He said few companies have been attracted to the idea of naming something in their honour, and Winnipeg has only garnered $355,000 from businesses that want to enter these naming agreements. While larger cities are able to secure millions from corporations to sponsor sports facilities, Rose-Redwood said that is not the case for cities the size of Winnipeg.
Rose-Redwood said Winnipeg’s model is often held up as an example to other cities, and he decided to release his preliminary findings this week as Victoria considers launching a similar program. His review of Winnipeg’s sponsorship program is part of a study being funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and has not been published. “When you add it all up, I really don’t think it warrants Winnipeg to be seen as a hallmark example of the windfall of naming rights and sponsorship,” he said. “I’m saying, maybe it’s not working as well as we think it is.” Winnipeg’s program encourages citizens, businesses and community groups to sponsor City of Winnipeg facilities or programs in exchange for things such as naming rights. It launched in 2009 and garnered no revenue in its first year, which left a $1.5-million hole in the city’s operating budget.
The shortfall was offset by interest revenue and surpluses from other departments. Since then, city officials said the program has brought in $2 million in commitments from eight companies including BFI, Qualico and Zellers. Councillor. Paula Havixbeck (Charleswood-Tuxedo) has worked on the sponsorship file since she was elected and said it has enhanced city services. Havixbeck said these types of agreements take time to negotiate, and have generated a lot of money for the City of Winnipeg. “I think that’s pretty significant. That’s $2 million we wouldn’t have had we not had the program,” she said. “I think it’s been a great thing for Winnipeg.”
It is important to note that when a municipal sponsorship program developed and managed correctly it can be very successful. When it is not done right it can be a dismal failure.
The Partnership Group – Sponsorship Specialists™ has provided their expertise and services with municipalities at the large scale such as the City of Toronto and City of Edmonton to generate substantial revenues for them. As well, the Partnership Group – Sponsorship Specialists™ has worked with smaller municipalities such as the Town of Kindersley and Town of Taber to assist them in their successful sponsorship programs. Unless a municipality undertake a professional inventory identification and valuation process by a industry qualified sponsorship firm, they cannot estimate their revenue projections accurately, nor be able to build programs that are equitable and profitable to both the sponsor and the municipality.
Once that work is completed, a professional and systematic sponsorship acquisition program must be put into place such as Partnership Group – Sponsorship Specialists™ has delivered for so many municipalities across the county.
The City of Winnipeg officials say the sponsorship program has generated $2 million in commitments from local companies.
- BFI: ($1 million): $100,000 a year over 10 years to create new recreational programming opportunities for inner-city youth, families and seniors at the North End Centennial Recreation Complex
- Brematson & Associates Inc: ($25,000): $5,000 a year over five years to build a collection of adapted and talking books for the Millennium Library’s Children’s and Teen Services Area
- Zellers: ($300,000) $100,000 a year over three years to pay for such things as new programming hours at the Magnus Eliason Recreation Centre
- Qualico: $300,000 toward naming rights for the new leisure rink at Southdale Community Centre
- Metro News: $75,000 over three years for exclusive placement of newspaper racks in five locations in the skywalk
- Winnipeg Sun: In-kind sponsorship of $75,000 in exchange for newspaper vending boxes at the three new rapid-transit stations