Toronto 2015 Pan American & Parapan American Games: Commercial Rights Management


There is a moment at the beginning of every great sporting event when our national pride reaches its peak and the “WOW” factor sets in, and the Pan American Games opening ceremonies were certainly no exception. Was it when Donovan Bailey leapt from the tallest icon in all of the Americas to present us with the final leg of the torch relay, when Cirque du Soleil dazzled us with their impossible creativity and acrobatics, or at that long anticipated moment when Team Canada finally emerged only to be met with an eruption of cheers? Moments like these are not possible and do not feel of the same magnitude without a venue to call home.

The TwentyTen Group’s in-house commercial rights management experts were proud partners in Toronto 2015’s venue strategy – leading the way to convert some of Toronto’s biggest and most iconic locations into commercially aligned spaces to bring the Games to life.

Protecting the Games’ sponsors’ brands is a big part of the commercial rights game and as such de-branded “clean venues” are needed to protect partners from the potential association that is generated by competitor messaging.

In fact, the venue usually known as “the home of the Blue Jays”, which seats over 54,000 people and features numerous commercial partner advertisements and logos became “PAD” – Pan Am Ceremonies Venue, and was de-branded to protect Games partners not once but twice over the course of the 16-day event under the leadership of our very own Colin Jarvis.

Colin is no stranger to the intricacies of commercial rights protection, as his resume will attest, he has worked on other notable games such as the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games. In support of the TO2015 CRM team Colin supported PAD’s conversion, along with 31 other Pan Am/Parapan Am venues including key locations such as MIS (Mississauga Sports Centre, EPS (Exhibition Stadium) and YOR (CIBC Pan Am/Parapan Am Athletics Stadium).

Transforming a world-class (and not to mention behemoth) venue like PAD is no small feat. In order to make this house a home for TO2015 partners, the CRM team covered every single visible commercial message and logo in the stadium. This process includes a highly targeted action plan, auditing all venue branding and building a strategic plan mapping out how to quickly, safely and effectively cover conflicting messaging. It takes thousands of hours of strategic planning and manpower to convert venues into a meeting place for international sport and celebration, while simultaneously acting as a home for its sponsors.

To put the magnitude of this task into perspective:

  • It took 350 hours of measurement and analysis of every non-partner advertising, promotion or activation that needed to be de-branded in all 38 venues to build the plan
  • 65,000 sq ft of material was used to remove conflicting messaging
  • It took 23 people in one 19 hour day to clear PAD of conflicting brands
  • It took 14 people two 12-hour days to de-brand PAD the second time around
    • Yes, a certain baseball team happened to have a game scheduled smack dab in the middle of the Games – so the CRM team had to cover the brands and restore PAD twice over the course of the event!
  • It took 12 people five 14 hour days to complete the restoration of the Blue Jays’ home back to its original state
  • It took 12 people twelve 14 hour days to do the same at 31 of the other 37 venues

So why go to all of this effort, covering up a bunch of logos with vinyl and tape only to take it down again?

“It’s all about trust in relationships,” said Colin. “It’s the principle of supporting the sponsors who have invested in the Games to support the athletes and the growth of amateur sport. Yes sponsors do benefit in return, but they could benefit elsewhere and yet they choose to support this event in order to pay homage to the athletes, the sports and Canada. Therefore, protecting a sponsor’s rights is a vital ingredient to sustaining a healthy partnership family and a healthy revenue model for an event. Without protection, the brand equity you are selling a sponsor can be impacted significantly.”

We call it “ambush marketing” when sponsor competitors find ways to benefit from the shine of the Games without contributing a penny to the event’s goal: in this case, to support some of the world’s best athletes competing in an international celebration of sport. When companies that haven’t paid to do so use marketing tactics to profit off of the hard work and investment of legitimate sponsors, financial support for the Games and the competing athletes can be put in jeopardy.

As consumers, we can often take sponsor support for our favourite events or teams for granted. Without sponsors, moments like TO2015’s Opening Ceremonies, or Team Canada’s historic performance would be dramatically altered – and just might lose that special ingredient that makes us stand up and say “WOW”.

To read more about ambush marketing please visit: