The Tim Hortons naming-rights deal for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ new stadium was a natural fit between two brands with strong local ties.
But the 10-year agreement for Tim Hortons Field — the richest in CFL history, with an annual value thought to be in the low seven figures — was no sure thing, team officials involved in the negotiations said.
The late Tim Horton, a former NHL player, established the first location of his coffee and doughnut restaurant chain in Hamilton in 1964. Store No. 1 is two blocks from the site of oldIvor Wynne Stadium, the Tiger-Cats’ home for 84 years until it was demolished last year to make way for a new $146 million facility. (The team is playing home games this year at a local university stadium).
Over the past 49 years, Tim Hortons has grown to 4,300 stores across North America. In sports, its strongest presence is in the NHL, where it is a league partner and a sponsor of several teams. Tim Hortons also has deals with a few NFL teams and Big Ten schools.
On its way to becoming one of Canada’s most prominent consumer brands, though, Tim Hortons has passed on several opportunities to buy naming rights for CFL stadiums, saidMatt Afinec, the Tiger-Cats’ senior vice president of new stadium development.
“Tim Hortons’ presence is far more pronounced in hockey than the CFL,” Afinec said. “This was a CEO-to-CEO sell. It took a whole lot of storytelling. If it was up to the traditional marketers, the deal might not have been done.”
Tugging on the heartstrings of a company whose roots lie in Hamilton did not hurt the team’s cause, but what closed the deal was project officials positioning the new 22,500-seat stadium as a community asset, said David Clanachan, Tim Hortons’ chief operating officer.
Tim Hortons Field will serve as the soccer venue for the 2015 Pan American Games. In addition, when the stadium opens in 2014, it will play host to more than 1,500 hours of youth sports annually.
“Children are our No. 1 target customer group,” Clanachan said. “This won’t be your typical pro sports stadium. It made a ton of sense.”
Premier Partnerships’ Jeff Marks consulted with the Tiger-Cats before the team went on its own and approached Tim Hortons.
The negotiations took about seven months from start to finish, Afinec said. The team’s sales pitch included a five-minute video presentation linking the Tim Hortons brand to the “Tiger Town” region surrounding Hamilton, an industrial city 45 miles southwest of Toronto.
“It was the perfect storm — they’re in our backyard, there was the community angle and the company is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2014,” Afinec said.