Will the CN Tower Hawk Its Name for $78 Million?
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Will the CN Tower Hawk Its Name for $78 Million?

Vehicle Gateway’s branding scheme: it’s hideous, but not actually to be painted green.

When SkyDome surrendered its name to Rogers Communications back in 2006, Torontonians were outraged. Now that we’ve had a few years to get used to it, the edges seem to have dulled—winner: Rogers, who now have what probably amounts to the cheapest major ad space in the city. And since they bought the entire bankrupt six-hundred-million-dollar venue for a bargain twenty-five million, Rogers didn’t even have to negotiate the naming rights.
Today, Torontoist has learned that a somewhat unknown Toronto company will be announcing a bid to audaciously rebrand the city’s flagship landmark, the CN Tower. Better sharpen those pitchforks now.
Online used car retailer (!) Vehicle Gateway Corporation will be offering seventy-eight million dollars for branding rights to the tower, which include plans to lock the new LED lighting system into a green-only configuration, renaming the thirty-four-year-old tourist attraction as the “VG Tower.”

Though the structure has changed ownership over the years, any whiff of a name change has been met with strong opposition. Divested by the Canadian National Railway for thirty-five million dollars in 1995, the CN Tower is currently owned by the Canada Lands Company, an arms-length Crown corporation. For years, there have been suggestions that the government might consider selling the naming rights to its real estate assets, with Finance Minister Jim Flaherty using the CN Tower as a specific example in 2008.
“We are fully prepared for the outcry,” said Peter Davies, director of Sales and Marketing at Vehicle Gateway, when reached yesterday. “We do have plans in place for a smooth integration of the name into the minds of Torontonians.”
Davies told Torontoist that the seventy-eight-million-dollar bid would be amortized over a twenty-five-year period, adding that what amounts to about three million dollars per year isn’t that outrageous for a corporate advertising budget. When asked how the private company—which only launched its site on March 3—was financed, Davies offered no comment, stating only that it consisted of a board of automotive experts and venture capitalists. When we expressed scepticism that the naming bid sounded like a publicity stunt for a fledgling startup, Davies was adamant.
“I can understand where you’re coming from, but this is a legitimate bid.”
According to Davies, the federal and provincial governments are already aware of the impending bid, but he would not say if the City of Toronto had any involvement. We asked if other companies were slated to bid to CLC at the same time, and if Vehicle Gateway had been asked by an entity to make a bid by a specific date, but Davies would offer no comment.

It’s run by a Crown corporation, which means that you own it. Photo by Miles Storey/Torontoist.

The mandate of the CLC is to “optimize the financial and community value” by acquiring, developing, and selling high-value commercial land and property. In Toronto, for example, the CLC also operates the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Downsview Park, and a lucrative parking facility beside the Rogers Centre. The CLC has mentioned a plan to “renew the brand focus” of the CN Tower, concentrating on a redevelopment of the base area with Ripley Entertainment, but it has remained mum on naming rights for the tower. Torontoist could not get a comment from Canada Lands Company by press time. [UPDATE, 2 p.m.: Canada Lands Company issued a press release this morning saying that the naming rights for the Tower “are not currently for sale.”]
The Vehicle Gateway pitch still sounds suspiciously like a marketing escapade, however. It’s highly unlikely that the CLC would hobble its brand-new multicoloured LED array, and it seems impossible that they would consider renaming such an iconic property after an unknown company, let alone for a quarter-century term. “VG Tower” doesn’t do much for brand recognition…but money does talk.
Certainly, the CN Tower is worth more than that.