TRUE North Sports & Entertainment and Tennis Manitoba are taking a page out of the Winnipeg Jets marketing book as they try to lure the Davis Cup to Winnipeg in February.
They've just launched "Advantage Winnipeg," a ticket sale deposit and social media campaign in support of Winnipeg's bid to host the Canada-Spain tie from February 1-3 at the MTS Centre. Calgary and Vancouver are the other two cities in the running. The goal is to hit 5,101, or one more ticket than Vancouver could sell at the UBC Thunderbird Arena.
Milos Raonic, the highest-ranked Canadian singles player of all time, at No. 15, and Daniel Nestor, arguably the greatest doubles player ever, will lead Team Canada, while Rafael Nadal, already one of the all-time greats and currently No. 4 in the world, is expected to lead the Spaniards.
Kevin Donnelly, senior vice-president and general manager of True North, said he believes Vancouver is the front runner but Winnipeg has shown its mettle over the years with other major sporting events, such as the Women's World Hockey Championship, Grey Cups, Briers and Junos.
"We want to create a story that takes down both Calgary and Vancouver. We're in the hunt. We want to position Winnipeg as a no-risk opportunity for Tennis Canada and put some certainty on how many people would come to the event," he said.
This ticket-selling strategy has worked previously, of course, as True North's "Drive to 13,000" was part of its demonstration to the NHL that Winnipeg would support the reborn Winnipeg Jets.
Bruce Waschuk, president of Tennis Manitoba, said he would love to go "way past" the 5,101 target.
"This is an international sporting event, an Olympic-style tennis event. The MTS Centre would give any home team a decisive advantage," he said.
Calgary's bid proposes to house the tie in the Stampede Corral, which has seating capacity of 6,475. The MTS Centre seats 15,003 for hockey but could possibly add a few more for tennis.
The "Rally to 5,101" aims to secure enough seat deposits that could guarantee the greatest attendance for a Davis Cup event ever in Canada.
Sports fans can secure their seats with a $25 deposit, which is 100 per cent refundable if Winnipeg fails to land the event.
Deposits can be made with Ticketmaster beginning Thursday morning at 10 a.m. through Monday at 10 p.m.
The man who will ultimately oversee where the tie will be held was impressed with the True North-Tennis Manitoba strategy.
"We love the keen interest that continues to be shown in Winnipeg. If that's what they want to do to prove that we should give this tie to Winnipeg, it's a great initiative. It's a rallying call. We think it's great. It lets the fans speak," said Michael Downey, president and CEO of Tennis Canada.
"Winnipeg has the only full-size hockey building available in the country at the time."
The local Davis Cup bid also has the backing of Tourism Winnipeg's "special event tourism fund."
"A high-profile event with significant media attention like the Davis Cup is a great way to showcase Winnipeg to the world," said Chantal Sturk-Nadeau, senior vice-president of Tourism Winnipeg.
The fact that Winnipeg could be in the middle of a deep freeze in February would be another element in the city's favour.
"Our friends coming from Spain aren't used to the potential weather that Winnipeg would have in early February," Downey said.
It's expected a decision on the winning bid will be made by the end of the month.
Winnipeggers are also asked to "like" the bid on Tennis Manitoba's Facebook page and show their support on Tennis Canada's Facebook page. (Vancouver's bid is well ahead with "likes" at 3,700 compared to just 500 for Winnipeg.) Sports fans can also follow developments on Twitter with @WpgDavisCup.