Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

True North, MTS forge long-term partnership

Renegotiate deal for arena naming rights

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MTS Allstream and True North Sports & Entertainment have come to an agreement that will see the communications company's name on the outside of the MTS Centre for years to come.

Jim Ludlow, president and CEO of True North, confirmed the renewed partnership but said he wasn't in a position to reveal the financial terms or length of the deal.

"Neither of us saw any way of moving forward other than together. MTS has been a very good partner with us since 2004," he said. "We've seen mutual value and respect in how we align our passion in the community and respect for the brand. It will be a benchmark relationship in terms of the value and terms."

MTS and True North first joined forces prior to the opening of the $133.5-million building in the fall of 2004. Under that deal, the naming rights to the downtown facility were valued at $7 million for 10 years. Now that the MTS Centre will be home to an NHL franchise instead of an AHL one, Ludlow said it's only reasonable that the price tag will rise.

"When you move from the American Hockey League to the National Hockey League, the numbers shift. (MTS) understood if we moved to the next level, it would be valuable for us to maintain the partnership. It's a very powerful brand. The brand is moving into the NHL. The MTS Centre will be one of 30 buildings in North America where NHL hockey is played," he said.

Selina Hinds, director of corporate communications at MTS, declined to discuss the True North partnership, saying Tuesday was about celebrating the NHL coming back to Winnipeg.

"We share the community's excitement. The announcement of the return of the NHL is fantastic news for Winnipeg, for Manitoba, for our community and MTS is proud to be a part of this exciting day. We have a great relationship with True North and we wish to congratulate them on this significant accomplishment," he said.

For MTS, having its name mentioned on Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts and during highlight packages on all-sports television and radio stations on both sides of the border will be "fantastic" for the company, according to Jeff Swystun, chief communications officer for DDB Worldwide, a New York-based marketing and advertising agency.

"It will help MTS establish its brand beyond the borders of Manitoba and ideally make it synonymous with the energetic and winning team on the ice," he said.

In fact, MTS has already received an inordinate amount of exposure during the prolonged negotiations to bring the NHL back to Winnipeg, he said.

"Committing to the NHL team should deliver to them ongoing loyalty from their existing customer base and the potential of attracting more customers with a forward-thinking commitment to Winnipeg," he said.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 1, 2011 C8

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