“Ford Square” will be the latest in Toronto’s long line of unfortunate name sponsorships
The Post reports that Maple Leaf Square, the space outside the Air Canada Centre where sports fans gather to watch games on a giant screen, will soon be renamed “Ford Square.” The new monicker isn’t a reference to the mayor (he wouldn’t be the first living chief magistrate to get a square named after himself, though he would be the first to earn that distinction on the heels of a rehab stint). The name is actually an homage to the Ford Motor Company, which is set to announce a major sponsorship deal with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.
The square’s renaming is obviously unfortunate, not only because of the inevitable confusion with the automaker’s crack-smoking soundalike, but also because the square currently has a name that means something to the people who spend time there, and soon it will have a name that means nothing to anyone but the people who brokered the sponsorship deal. But is this the worst instance of corporate renaming in Toronto’s recent history? Not even close. Here, a brief rundown of other things companies have managed to get named after themselves, to greater or lesser degrees of outcry.
The TIFF Bell Lightbox
The surprising thing about this one is how widely accepted the name has become. (The name “Bell Lightbox” was being used in the media even before the tower at King and John streets, a combination condo high-rise and headquarters for the Toronto International Film Festival, was completed in 2010.) Bell earned the distinction by buying its way into “lead sponsor” status during the capital campaign that helped raise money for the building’s construction. For the wide adoption of the corporate-sponsored name, credit probably belongs to TIFF’s marketing department, which is notoriously adept at using the festival’s cachet to keep journalists in line.
Ridiculousness Rating: 6/10, because at least the whole “Bell” thing didn’t come about as a result of a sudden name change—it was always that way.
The single most notorious recent instance of corporate meddling with the name of a treasured Toronto institution came in 2005, when Rogers, still flying high after purchasing the SkyDome at a bargain price, announced that the stadium would be rechristened “Rogers Centre.” To this day, a vocal contingent of Torontonians refuses to use the new name.
Ridiculousness Rating: 10/10, because now there’s even a statue of Ted Rogers outside, for chrissake.
The Daniels Corporation, a major Toronto developer, has been leading the ongoing transformation of Regent Park virtually since the project’s inception. The Spectrum, an arts and cultural centre that is considered one of the redevelopment’s crown jewels, was built with a $4-million gift from Daniels and its associated charitable foundation, and now bears the company’s name.
Ridiculousness Rating: 1/10, because Daniels has invested a lot in the neighbourhood and has arguably earned bragging rights.
Harbourfront Centre itself isn’t named after anything, but many of its venues are. There’s the Natrel Rink, the WestJet Stage and so on. Omit the corporate names in any published material and you will get a note from someone at the Centre, politely asking you not to do that.
Ridiculousness Rating: 7/10, because even though Harbourfront Centre uses its sponsorship dollars to put on lots of great, free programming, compelling a whole city to keep up with a rotating roster of corporate alliances just isn’t cool.
Toronto’s single most oppressive corporate sponsor deserves a category all its own. Let us recount the many things that now bear this bank’s name: the Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival (formerly Caribana), the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival, Scotiabank BuskerFest, and Scotiabank Nuit Blanche. Are we forgetting any? Probably.
Ridiculousness Rating: 7/10, because while Scotiabank’s corporate sponsorships are generous, there’s something almost compulsive about the company’s need to append its name to the title of everything it touches.