The agreement to put the BMO banking brand on Los Angeles FC’s stadium—as well as a separate sponsorship with Angel City FC—offers some valuable lessons to other sports and entertainment marketers.
In particular, the reported 10-year, $100-million deal with LAFC for BMO Stadium, plus the Angel City “founding partner” agreement, came together based on the confluence of three key factors below. Those who are searching for new brand partners should be on the lookout for companies who meet similar criteria, especially those that check off more than one of the boxes.
Expansion. Just days before the naming rights announcement, BMO received regulatory approval for its acquisition of Bank of the West, which when it closes will give the bank its first major presence on the West Coast of the U.S.
As many companies before it, BMO will use a prominent sponsorship to herald its arrival in a new market, showcase its size and brand strength, and demonstrate its commitment to the community despite not having a presence previously in an effort to attract new business and retain existing Bank of the West customers.
History. BMO bills itself as the “Bank of Soccer.” The bank sponsors all three Canadian MLS teams, including having naming rights for Toronto FC’s BMO Field and being the jersey sponsor for CF Montreal and Toronto FC in addition to its ties to the Vancouver Whitecaps. Additionally, BMO has invested nearly $20 million to develop youth soccer in Canada in the last 20 years.
“We ended up with an incredible partner that has an unrivaled commitment to the game of soccer,” LAFC co-president Larry Freedman said in an interview with Sportico. “BMO has a long history and proven track record of supporting the game, being the financial supporter of soccer in Canada.”
In the same article, Sonya Kunkel, BMO’s head of loyalty and sponsorship marketing, said, “Given that we were familiar with the soccer playbook, and had longstanding relationships with Toronto FC, CF Montreal, [Canadian national team player] Alphonso Davies and others, we were interested in looking for other opportunities to partner and continue to support the game.”
Alignment. As discussed in a previous post, Angel City has become renowned for a unique component to its corporate partnership program: Ten percent of the revenue from each ACFC sponsorship is directed to meeting a need in the Los Angeles community.
At the same time, BMO has shifted from using its sponsorships and activations to highlight the benefits of being a customer—which it termed the “BMO Effect”—to supporting the corporation’s purpose to “boldly grow the good in business and in life.”
Thus all parties found themselves sharing a similar perspective on social responsibility and community outreach.
BMO recently partnered with Toronto FC to launch the Women in Soccer Fellowship, designed to provide women on-the-job experience in coaching, scouting, player development, medical and team services, to increase the number of women in sport.
As Julie Uhrman, Angel City’s co-founder and president told The Canadian Press news agency, “When we evaluate partners, the first thing we look at is (are) their values and are our values aligned. So knowing that BMO has a commitment to equity in sports and wants to help grow this great game is absolutely in line with what we do.”
In the same piece, Catherine Roche, BMO’s chief marketing officer, said, “Clearly (Angel City) is very passionate about promoting equity in the sport and so are we. That pillar of creating a more inclusive society has a lot of facets but sports is one of them,” she added. “This is definitely a very concrete way that we can live on that commitment and work with a really fantastic partner to advance it.”
The ten percent of BMO’s partnership revenue will be used to sponsor Girls Play Los Angeles, supporting more than 400 high school aged girls and gender expansive youth across L.A. with no-cost access to soccer.
LAFC’s Freedman said his team also shared values with BMO: “We found ourselves from the earliest discussion to be kindred spirits on how we approach our business and the community,” he told Sportico.