Scotiabank Arena celebrates Drake’s homecoming with a (temporary) name change

They arrived under cover of darkness, a small army of 50 or so with instructions to completely erase the name of one of Canada’s most prominent financial institutions from the exterior of the downtown Toronto arena bearing its name.

Shortly after the last fans filed out of Scotiabank Arena following the Toronto Maple Leafs’ pre-season win over the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday, cranes and boom lifts descended on the area, and workers began enveloping the entire exterior of the 665,000 square-foot structure in black vinyl.

Despite some evening rainfall, by daylight Friday they had transformed the structure into a “new” venue named October’s Very Own Arena. Scotiabank’s grey exterior had been replaced by the signature black and gold of Drake’s lifestyle brand, commemorating its 10-year association with one of the arena’s primary tenants, the Toronto Raptors, and coinciding with the hip-hop superstar’s two Toronto dates on Oct. 6 and 7.

Scotiabank CMO Laura Curtis Ferrera said they contacted Raptors parent MLSE to explore the idea of doing something “really unique” with the naming rights to mark Drake’s return to his hometown. “We said ‘We think this will be super cool for the city and for the fans,’ and MLSE said ‘Let’s do this together,'” said Curtis Ferrera.

The new name is being featured on the arena’s exterior signage, as well as its social media and digital channels. It coincides with the release of Drake’s newest release, For All the Dogs, and his two-night Toronto stand as part of the “It’s All a Blur” tour.

“Drake and October’s Very Own have played a pivotal role in the success of the Toronto Raptors over the past 10 years, and this precedent-setting relationship has captured the attention of fans locally, across Canada and around the world,” said Shannon Hosford, chief marketing officer at Raptors parent MLSE.

“We are thrilled to work with Scotiabank as they share their naming rights to help celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the Raptors’ partnership with Drake and OVO,” added Hosford. “We knew there was no better way to say ‘Happy Anniversary’ to the team’s Global Ambassador than with a never-seen-before transformation of Scotiabank Arena that embodies the creativity of our partnership and truly makes the venue ‘Drake’s House’ for the next two nights.”

The program is being supported by a variety of out-of-home assets, including a takeover of Yonge-Dundas Square, and a TTC bus wrap with custom “It’s All a Blur” artwork parked outside the arena during Drake’s two-night Toronto stop. Billboards and signs leading to the arena will also feature OVO branding.

The idea was only conceived in the past eight weeks as a way of marking Drake’s return to his home city. “He’s such an important cultural figure, and Scotiabank really wanted to do something special to celebrate his tour stop,” said Curtis Ferrera. “The notion that we could leverage our naming rights and our partnerships, to work with MLSE to give a gift back to the fans and be part of a cultural moment, just felt right.”

By our calculations, based on the reported $800 million, 20-year naming rights deal for the arena that Scotiabank inked in 2017, this two-day stunt represents about $200,000 in exposure. That’s a lot of whole lot of hotline bling.

“If we think about naming rights on a pro-rated basis, then we’re missing the point,” said Curtis Ferrera. “I think the value of our naming rights is our role in the community, and our association with an iconic cultural institution. To think of it as a media placement alone is missing the larger cultural relevance.”

Scotiabank Area has evolved to become more than a simple sports and concert venue in recent years, said Ferrera. It hosted a massive vaccine clinic and transformed into a giant community kitchen for the city’s frontline workers and its most vulnerable residents, for example. “When a venue starts becoming a cultural institution, you think very differently about how you use it and how it serves the community,” she said.

For Scotiabank, the endeavour is a way of cementing its commitment to the city and its fans while basking in their goodwill. “I think that fans care about brands that care about the things they care about, and we care about Drake and MLSE,” she said. “This is part of that whole brand love equation.”

Chris Powell