Tims and Tabbies A Perfect Pair

As noted by Steve Milton at The Hamilton Spectator in his article, maybe it’ll be the Doughnut Box. Or the Double-Double. A Dozen To Go? Tim’s House? Or, in November, the Ice Capp?   And does the Tabbies’ coach become Cold Stone Kent Austin?

Whatever sobriquet eventually comes to symbolize the marriage of the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Tim Hortons doughnuts through the naming rights of the new Pan Am stadium, the best description will always be this: A Natural Fit.

So natural that the iconic coffee shop chain is not just stepping out of its previous comfort zone, it’s leaping. It’s not any of the other go-to corporate biggies that love to see their company logo plastered all over a sports stadium. Tim Hortons doesn’t do that. Or didn’t, until now.  Image-wise, it has always sought to be about helping the needs of the greater community and it has returned to its original community to plant its most visible flag.

There was already a commercial relationship between Tim Hortons and the Ticats through signage, local franchisees and grassroots football programs. But this naming-rights deal – it’s still unknown how much the doughnut chain will pay in the 10-year arrangement, but it is certainly a significant amount if the Cats could guarantee the city a $750,000 annual cut – puts it on another plane altogether. It dwarfs, but will also tie together and enhance, several initiatives the two parties already share. They will, at every turn, be marketing each other.

While the company went semi-international years ago, this partnership is a public acknowledgement of where it came from, a symbolic message that it is not a rootless, anonymous, cash inhaler. Hortons, like the Cats, is investing at home. Hortons, like the Cats, sees itself as provider to not just a certain segment of the population but to its entire depth and breadth.

The town team partnering with the corner store should have a positive, if difficult to measure, impact on Hamilton’s often scarred image. When the more detailed stadium plans and programming features are introduced by the Cats on Friday afternoon, the city’s corporate logo will be highly visible on the new structure, a reminder that Timmy’s and Tabbies spring from the same local womb.

Tiger-Cats owner Bob Young has lost millions of dollars in the near decade since rescuing the CFL team from its 2003 bankruptcy. And, since stadium talk started, the Tiger-Cats have made it no secret they need to increase their game-day income. Nor have they hidden their attempts to extend their geographic and demographic reach into richer, younger areas.

There is potential for a public rift, real or imagined, in that attempt. But the bitter truth is that, without the chance for that extra income, some of which will have to come from new and perhaps non-traditional fans, the Ticats would no longer be in  town.

In a way, that is a similarity between Tim Hortons and the Tiger-Cats. They both must negotiate an extremely fine and difficult balance between going upscale to answer evolving market conditions and maintaining and respecting their long-term and most loyal customers.

Whatever the name and whatever the configuration, the football stadium has always been Hamilton’s common denominator, the Great Leveller in a city where there are disparate lifestyles and income levels.  Just like a cup of coffee and a doughnut.

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