RedBlacks score big with corporate sponsors

David Sali
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The Ottawa RedBlacks just opened their inaugural season, but they’re already big winners off the field when it comes to generating sponsorships, the team’s ownership group says.

Adrian Sciarra, OSEG vice-president of partnerships and merchandise

“The corporate community has reacted very positively to the launch of the RedBlacks and to the whole project that OSEG is leading,” Adrian Sciarra, the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group’s vice-president of partnerships and merchandise, said last week.

Mr. Sciarra, who spent five years in charge of the CFL’s corporate partnership and licensing agreements before joining OSEG last September, said the team is “well over 80 per cent” of the way to hitting its sponsorship revenue targets for the year.

“We’re on track and we should get there,” he said, adding the RedBlacks should have between 50 and 60 corporate sponsors by the time the team’s home opener at TD Place kicks off on July 18.

Mr. Sciarra declined to discuss financial details of the agreements.

OSEG has announced several major partnerships with national corporations this year.

In January, TD Bank inked a “lengthy” deal for the naming rights to the refurbished stadium and arena at Lansdowne Park worth seven figures annually. A month later, Labatt signed a multi-year agreement to sell beer at the park that makes Budweiser the official brew of the RedBlacks, the North American Soccer League’s Fury FC and the Ontario Hockey League’s Ottawa 67’s. Meanwhile, PepsiCo holds the exclusive soft-drink rights at Lansdowne.

Other national sponsors of the RedBlacks include Mr. Lube, Napa Auto Parts, Real Sports Bar and Grill and CAA.

OSEG will soon announce details of a major deal with Telus making it the organization’s official telecommunications provider, Mr. Sciarra said. As part of the agreement, the company will offer free wifi at the park, launch an official RedBlacks smartphone app and provide “fan-friendly” technology at TD Place, he said.

Companies close to home are also getting in on the action. Ottawa-based Gabriel Pizza has come on board as the official pizza supplier for all sporting events and concerts at Lansdowne. OSEG is also hammering out a sponsorship deal with a local car dealership, Mr. Sciarra said.

The CFL has a checkered past in the capital, which has seen two previous franchises collapse thanks to mismanagement, bad ownership and poor on-field performance. The Rough Riders folded in 1996 after 120 years in existence, while the league’s second incarnation in the city, the Renegades, lasted just four seasons before packing up in 2005.

“There have certainly been questions about our past and our history and what makes the third time the charm,” Mr. Sciarra conceded. “We’ve had to address some of that, but for the most part, we’ve been met with a lot of enthusiasm and excitement for what’s going on.”

Three main factors have put doubters’ minds at ease, he said – the team’s strong group of local owners with deep pockets, the excitement surrounding the revamped stadium and the resurgence of the league itself, which has been riding a wave of rising revenues and television ratings.

“The CFL is just in a different place right now than it’s been in the past,” said Mr. Sciarra, who worked at NASCAR Canada for four years before jumping to the CFL. “It’s very strong – it’s stable.”

Merchandise sales at the team’s two stores at Fifth Avenue Court and Ogilvie Road have also been brisk, he said, suggesting the city’s fans are welcoming the CFL back with open arms.

“The reality is we really haven’t yet shown the market the full depth of what’s available,” Mr. Sciarra said, adding the club will roll out more official products when it opens its retail outlets at TD Place later this month. “We’re just getting started, but so far, so good.”

Organizations: Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, CFL, TD Place TD Bank Labatt Budweiser North American Soccer League Ontario Hockey League PepsiCo CAA Telus Renegades NASCAR

Geographic location: Ottawa, Lansdowne Park, Ogilvie Road

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