How Toronto can capitalize on the Raptors' success
Toronto Raptors fans react in 'Jurassic Park,' outside the Scotiabank Arena after their team gets their first basket during game one NBA action against the Golden State Warriors in Toronto on Thursday, May 30, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin
With the Toronto Raptors now three wins away from an NBA championship, it’s more than just the team that could come out on top.
This is a moment that the city and other sports franchises can capitalize on to solidify Toronto’s status as a world class city.
The executive vice-president of Tourism Toronto says "the opportunity is tremendous."
“We haven’t seen anything quite like this,” says Andrew Weir.
The value of all of the international media exposure the city is getting right now is almost incalculable, he adds.
So he and his team are doing all they can to point the more than 1,000 members of the international media in town to the right places, to show the city in its best light. But he admits a lot of it is out of his control.
“This is happening because this is just an unstoppable phenomenon,” he says.
Weir also points out that Toronto is benefiting from the fact that this is the fifth straight year the Golden State Warriors have been in the NBA Finals.
“There’s a curiosity about this franchise, and people are taking notice of it.”
So are the city’s other professional sports franchises. Toronto hasn’t had a team in one of the big four league finals since the Blue Jays won the World Series in 1993.
“I think they're paying attention in terms of economic impact in terms of licensing, in terms of merchandising, in terms of using the economic impact of a long playoff run for sponsorship," says Layth Gafoor, the director of Lucentem Media Group.
Beyond business, Gafoor says the city’s other franchises could learn from how Raptors President Masai Ujiri put together a team that suits the city.
“That’s why he built the team like that, that could withstand all the hype around the Warriors. Whether they win or not, they’ve already won because they’ve changed the culture of how pro sports teams are dealt with in Toronto. It’s changed everything,” he says in a telephone interview.
And Gafoor says that Kawhi Leonard’s quiet confidence and outstanding play makes him the perfect athlete for Toronto.
“I just love what this Raptors team has done, because it’s been able to show if you’ve got quality and substance, you never really have to panic.”
The big question mark then is: will Leonard be back next year? But for the rest of the finals, while the Raptors remain calm on court, the team’s formula for success could spill over into the city, and its professional sports teams.