BlackBerry and Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment announced today that the Toronto Maple Leafs in the NHL, the Raptors in the NBA, and the Marlies (another hockey team) are all adopting BlackBerry as their official smartphone. Obviously this means that we'll see a bunch of marketing around the teams, but it will also mean plenty of apps for fans and some BBM Channels. It looks like the Channels are already live - C000E8336 for the Raptors and C000A8B9C for the Leafs.
It's worth noting that major service providers Rogers and Bell jointly own MLSE, so this is a pretty solid fit. The funny thing is, Rogers also owns the Blue Jays, who are already very comfortable with their BlackBerry sponsorship. After talking with BlackBerry, it sounds like the arrangement was made more directly with MLSE and that the Rogers/Bell connection was really just the icing on the cake. That said, don't expect TELUS to be shouldered out of anything because of vertical integration issues. Likewise, the kind of content we're expecting, like being able to hear from players in between periods, likely won't have any geographic restrictions. The agreement is for the next three years, and we should start seeing the content from the partnership becoming available in the late summer.
The full press release is below. Any Raptors or Leafs fans in the house?
MAPLE LEAF SPORTS & ENTERTAINMENT TEAMS UP WITH BLACKBERRY
Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment (MLSE) announced today that BlackBerry® will be the Official Mobile Computing Partner of the Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL), Toronto Raptors (NBA) and Toronto Marlies (AHL). Through the marketing relationship, the iconic BlackBerry brand will be featured prominently in andaround Air Canada Centre, and BlackBerry will collaborate with MLSE to develop a range of new platforms that will enable teams to connect with fans by sharing information and updates. With the future release of fan applications for BlackBerry® 10 smartphones and the development of a channel on BlackBerry® Messenger (a BBM™ Channel) hosted by Leafs and Raptors personalities, fans will be able to enjoy real-time engagement experiences and preferred access as they follow their teams throughout the season.
"We are thrilled to be partnering with BlackBerry and this announcement means exciting things are in store for BlackBerry customers and Maple Leafs and Raptors fans everywhere,” said David Hopkinson, senior vice-president, global partnerships and marketing for MLSE. “We look forward to bringing unprecedented access and some amazing experiences to our fans through this partnership over the next several years.
BlackBerry and MLSE share some key values: passion, determination and leadership,” said Andrew MacLeod, managing director for Canada at BlackBerry. “Together with MLSE and fans across the country, we are celebrating the spirit of ambition through excellence in Canadian sports, and we are honoured to stand behind some of the nation’s favourite sports teams that display the indomitable spirit the BlackBerry brand represents.