The Toronto Maple Leafs can't win on the ice, and now it seems they can't even win on the sidewalk.
They may have beaten Tampa Bay last night but lost to the City of Toronto yesterday. The city has given Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment 48 hours to clean up sidewalks that were painted with Leafs logos all over the downtown core as part of a marketing campaign to mark the start of the NHL season.
"You cannot use public sidewalks for third party advertising," said Angie Antoniou with Toronto's traffic services, said of the blue and white ads. "That's basically the bylaw infraction.
"We fully support all of our sporting teams, but our sidewalks are for public use."
The blue emblems, accompanied by the phrase, "Leafs Nation, Spirit is Everything," began cropping up in early October outside subway stations and along major city streets like King, Bathurst, Jarvis and Queen. At the corner of Church and Front alone, there are five ads.
According to Antoniou, City Hall isn't even sure how many logos have been painted on Toronto's sidewalks, but they all have to be removed.
"Usually we would give 48 hours to have it removed. If not, then the city would do the cleanup and charge the costs to the source," Antoniou said.
But MLSE, which is worth nearly $2 billion, said the marks are not its fault because it was told by the advertising firm hired for the campaign that it was allowed.
Grassroots Advertising, which was hired by MLSE's media buying agency, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
"We wouldn't just do this randomly. We would go by the book and make sure that the rights are there," said Rajani Kamath, MLSE's director of corporate communications.
"We understood that Grassroots had the rights secured for this," Kamath said. "It would be Grassroots Advertising that's responsible for cleaning this up. If they say they have the right to do that, and they didn't, then it is their responsibility."
According to Grassroots' website, the firm specializes in "street smart impressions" and is a "one-stop guerrilla shop." While the website doesn't specifically mention painting ads on sidewalks, Grassroots' other marketing campaigns have included using chalk and stencils, and even power-washing a logo or brand onto a dirty sidewalk.
For the most part, pedestrians at Front and Church yesterday didn't mind the painted logo on the sidewalk. Andrew Kristensen even thought the ad livened up the otherwise drab grey concrete, saying, "it looks better than gum."
But not everyone is willing to cut the Leafs, or their advertising agencies slack.
"It's an ad like anything else, and you gotta pay the piper. I think it's a little brazen," Tom Shipton said. "They've got to pay like everyone else."