TORONTO — While statistics show that the Toronto Raptors’ NBA Finals run provided profits for bars across the country, experts say the moment is also an invaluable marketing opportunity for Toronto that could provide a substantial long-term economic boost to the region.
Moneris reported that spend growth during Finals Game 3 was up 6 per cent across Canada when compared to the same time last year. Vancouver led the charge with the highest spend growth (+29 per cent) during Game 3.
Spend growth during Finals Game 4 was up 9 per cent across Canada when compared to the same time last year. During Game 4, Calgary led the charge with the highest spend growth (+20 per cent).
With everything riding on Game 5, tensions rose high and so did bar tabs! Spend growth during Finals Game 5 rose to 63 per cent across Canada when compared to the same time last year. Peak times for spending went through the roof across Canada. Raptors fans in Edmonton were spending like never before (+279 per cent) followed by loyal home-town Raptors fans in Toronto (+92 per cent). At the peak time, around 11 p.m., Canadian spending on average was up 375 per cent!
While the stats for the final game aren’t in yet, the numbers show that the championship run has meant profits for bars as people gathered to take in the games with other fans.
“It’s interesting if I’m sitting at home watching it. It’s exciting if I’m sitting in a bar with 200 of my best new friends watching a game,” said Jeff Guthrie, chief marketing officer at payments firm Moneris.
“Hospitality is the heart of the sports business, and our industry represented the city so well,” said Darren Sim of A&W, at the recent ORHMA AGM. “On the hospitality side, with Jurassic Park, the world saw what Toronto can be and what Ontario can be. It took us to a new level of hospitality and we shared that with the world and Ontario.”
“There were 50 Jurassic Parks across Canada,” noted Dan Morrow, director of food and beverage for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE).
And while Moneris focused on bar tabs, the boost around game spending will be felt more broadly, said Hannah Holmes, assistant professor of economics at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., in a Canadian Press article. “You’re going to see sales at bars go up, you’re going to see hotel room bookings increase, people coming in from out of town. You’re going to see increased revenue for transportation.”
However, the increased spending isn’t necessarily boosting the overall economy, since the money is often being diverted from other local spending. “Money that may have been spent elsewhere like going to the movies or something like that, now’s being redirected. So it’s not new spending,” said Holmes. Where you make money is when you have new money coming in, when you get tourists coming in and spending money, that’s an injection into local economies.”
Available data suggests some additional economic activity, with Airbnb saying guest arrivals were up 25 per cent for Game 1 compared with last year, while Tourism Toronto says hotel occupancy rates were up seven per cent.
“Over the long run, this is a tremendous exposure opportunity for Toronto,” said Andrew Weir, executive vice president at Tourism Toronto.
“Toronto’s well-known to many people. But there’s still a lot of people in the U.S. and elsewhere that don’t know the city too well, and associate it with the cold of Canada, and perhaps think it’s more of a mid-sized city.”
The NBA championship run is a way to showcase Toronto at its best to what’s become an increasingly global NBA audience in countries like China, Brazil, Mexico and the U.K., said Weir.