The Toronto Raptors have reached a five-year agreement with BMO in which the bank becomes the club’s presenting sponsor and the Raptors use an NBA pilot program to feature the bank’s logo on the team’s home court.
The Raptors and BMO will officially announce the deal next week.
Financial terms were not disclosed, but the agreement closes a significant gap in the Raptors’ sponsorship portfolio. Dave Hopkinson, chief commercial officer for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which owns the team, points out that of all categories of sponsors, financial services companies spend the most on sports. Until now the Raptors haven’t had a bank sponsor since their previous deal with BMO expired three seasons ago.
“The fact that the Raptors haven’t had a sponsor for the last three years in such an important category has been a miss,” Hopkinson says. “We’re delighted to have BMO back but we’re also delighted to make sure we’re getting money in the most lucrative category of sponsorship.”
Under the agreement, the Raptors will become the second team in the NBA to sell on-court ad space to a corporate sponsor.
When the regular season tips off, fans will see a BMO logo painted on the sideline in front of each team’s bench. This capitalizes on a new NBA rule, enacted as a test this season, which allows teams to sell ads on the sideline of their home court. Hopkinson says if the rule becomes permanent the BMO logo will remain in place for the length of the bank’s deal with the Raptors.
Hopkinson says the rule reflects the reality that teams, leagues and sponsors will continue to integrate ads into playing surfaces and uniforms. MLS and CFL jerseys already feature sponsor logos, and Hopkinson believes the NBA will eventually follow.
“The power of (ads on jerseys) from a brand perspective is all about the television audience,” he says. “At some point, it is going to happen.”
The bank’s return to basketball further establishes the sport as a powerful marketing vehicle in Canada.
“If you’re partnering on basketball, you’re speaking to (young city dwellers) in their language and you’re speaking to them on their turf,” he says. “That’s what every bank and every brand wants to do.”