Move aside John Labatt
London Community News
By Sean Meyer/London Community News/Twitter: Newswriter22
It turns out the King of Beers is a more globally recognized brand than a historic London brewmeister
During the city council meeting on Tuesday (June 26), members — in some cases begrudgingly — voted to accept Labatt Breweries plans to renew its naming rights for the John Labatt Centre (JLC), but with a new name on the marquee, Budweiser Gardens. The new name will go into effect this October.
Officials with Labatt Breweries and Global Spectrum, the company that operates the venue, spoke earlier in the day with the Investment and Economic Prosperity Committee to lay out the reasons why the name change is the best option for the city moving forward.
Jeff Ryan, corporate affairs director for Labatt Breweries, said the company has invested “millions of dollars in our sponsorship of the venue,” but if it was going to make another 10-year commitment to the arena, the name would have to be linked to its top selling brand of beer.
“Our focus as a brewer has shifted to the number one brand in Canada, which is Budweiser. We have been brewing it in London for 32 years and right now it is 42 per cent of all of our volume at the brewery,” Ryan said. “We have such a proud heritage in London, 165 years brewing in the same location, this will allow us to continue our support of the community.”
In stating Labatt has the right to change the name in renewing its sponsorship, Mayor Joe Fontana spoke to some of the negativity in the community around the new name. Fontana said he too is sentimental about the JLC name, but that people will adapt to it over time.
“With the name Budweiser, and our international scope, it would seem to me we are going to have a lot of opportunities on a going forward basis,” Fontana said. “I am sure it will always be affectionately called the JLC . . . the fact is the name is going to resonate for us both nationally and internationally.”
To that point, Ohl said he was looking forward to having a name on the building that he wouldn’t have to constantly explain to people outside of London.
While there was no question Labatt has the right to change the name, a greater issue for the committee was whether the city was getting the best value for the arena’s naming rights.
Ward 7 Councillor Matt Brown asked directly what the value of the rights are, but was informed by Brian Ohl, JLC general manager, that Global Spectrum does not comment on the financial details of its deals. In fact, he wouldn’t reveal the value in-camera either.
To get reassurance of the value of the deal, Mike Turner, deputy city treasurer, pointed to a study conducted through Front Row Marketing Services (FRMS) that determined the renewal places among the best in North America over the past three years.
The report from FRMS states that in a study of 44 comparable venues in North America, the average deal dropped 2.5 per cent in value. The new deal with Labatt will be an increase of almost 28 per cent.
Ohl told the committee that information tells him the right deal has been signed.
“I have to be honest with you, we feel that we got a very generous, very fair deal, based on market size, based on what this building is, in terms of the exposure it gets, “Ohl said. “We feel very strongly we are getting good value for it.”
Brown also brought up the question that many in the committee were looking for an answer around, what would happen if the city declined the name.
Under such a scenario, Ohl said, Global Spectrum would have to look elsewhere and the name John Labatt Centre would still be changed.
“If this was turned down . . . we would obviously talk with Labatt about whether they would want to pursue the naming rights under a different name. But if they decided not to, we would go out and look for another sponsor,” Ohl said. “Whether it was the Dunkin Donuts Centre, Wal-Mart or whomever, we would still be back to you with a new name.”
At council later that evening, the new deal and name were approved by a 12-3 vote.
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