The home of the Winnipeg Jets and Manitoba Moose will be renamed the Canada Life Centre effective July 1, as part of a 10-year sponsorship agreement.
The deal includes substantial branding, media, hospitality and community assets for insurance giant Canada Life — which is partnering with True North Sports + Entertainment, the company that owns and operates the downtown arena, which is currently known as Bell MTS Place.
The signs will soon be replaced at the arena on Portage Avenue, which typically hosts more than 140 events in any given year. It’s expected to be completed by September.
That means fresh logos will be placed on the front side of the building, on the scoreboards and at centre ice, among other areas, right around the time the Jets are back in session after the summer.
In exclusive interviews with the Free Press, executives from True North and Canada Life provided details ahead of a news conference later today.
"It’s definitely a really, truly exciting chapter for us," said Paul Mahon, president and chief executive officer at Great-West Lifeco, Canada Life’s parent company.
"We’ve been headquartered here and we’ve called Winnipeg and Manitoba our home for more than 130 years. So, naturally, this makes me just really happy as a lifelong fan of the Jets and also, as someone who’s been part of this community and wants to keep doing more good here."
Mark Chipman, executive chairman of True North, said the opportunity for this partnership arose as the Bell MTS agreement was coming to a close.
The 440,000-square-foot building, which can house 15,000 fans at a hockey game and more than 16,000 at concerts, was called the MTS Centre when it opened in 2004 at a cost of $133.5 million.
It became the home of the Jets in 2011; and was renamed Bell MTS Place in 2017, after Bell Canada’s acquisition of MTS.
"I’ve known Paul and the folks at Canada Life for a long, long time," Chipman said. "Certainly, this was something we were both interested in seeing happen. But more than that, I think the most unique and powerful part of this is that it is a national company that is still very local."
As True North celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, Chipman said, "it couldn’t be a better time to embark upon the next 10 years of our journey than with a partner like Canada Life, that shares the same community commitment and passion for our great city and country."
For Mahon, the deal is another way to introduce and re-introduce Canadians to his company’s still relatively new brand.
In January 2020, just months before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Great-West Life Assurance Co., London Life Insurance Co., The Canada Life Assurance Co. and two other holding companies amalgamated. That large business has since been called the Canada Life Assurance Co., which has more than 11,000 employees across the country, including 3,300 in Winnipeg.
"During the pandemic, we’ve all really been through a lot together and of course, as a big new brand and as an arena that had to close to in-person events, we both definitely relate to one another," said Chipman.
"It’s inspiring to us that this National Hockey League location wants to work with us as we build our brand," said Mahon. "We’re so lucky to get this kind of partnership as we’re really just getting our name on the map. I think this relationship will be an important tool to do that, as the in-person sports and entertainment sector rises up again."
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Mahon said he’s not at liberty to discuss the value of the deal. "But what I can tell you is that what we did here was put all our dollars that we were already putting towards promotion and advertising and redirected that to this deal," he said.
The announcement does not mean IG Field (formerly Investors Group Field) — named after one of Canada Life’s sister companies, and home to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Valour FC, Manitoba Bisons and Winnipeg Rifles — will change its name, Mahon said.
Chipman said True North has slowly started to allow tentative bookings for concerts and tour stops at the arena for the end of the year. "However, it all depends on the public health orders in place at the time," he said.
"We’re in this for a big decade of collaboration," said Mahon. "Even if that means it’ll be a slow start to events because of the pandemic, obviously that’s disappointing to the fans and people wanting to come back to stands, but we’re just excited we get to be there for this journey as a team."
The 10-year sponsorship agreement includes:
Venue naming rights — Exterior signage, scoreboard logos, centre ice logos, venue media backdrops, dedicated venue website, dedicated venue social media platforms, venue mentions during broadcast, City of Winnipeg signs (including the skywalk, transit and venue operation signs such as roof logo);
In arena — LED bowl dominance branding rotation, LED bowl dominance branding, opening faceoff logo placement, intermission commercial, logo on the Jets practice jersey;
Manitoba Moose — Rink boards, helmets, team jersey.