Since TIFF (the Toronto International Film Festival) opened up their Bell Lightbox in downtown Toronto during September 2010 one of the main aspects of the building was their BlackBerry Lounge. This was a spot on the second floor where people could grab a drink while they waited for a movie or just after work and relax. One of the great things about it was you had the ability to charge your micro and miniUSB devices at the convenient and numerous plugs.
It seems though that as of very recently (and just noticed today), this reality is no more. @emanintdot on Twitter checked in to Foursquare a couple of days ago and noticed “Hmm no more @Blackberry chargers…”. At first he thought it was just due to an early spring cleaning or something of the like until he noticed the lack of BlackBerry branding in the Lounge which had formerly been there.
The above picture was taken in September 2010 when the TIFF Bell Lightbox opened and you can see on the right hand side of the picture along the marble bar the micro and minUSB charging cables which were available for all to use – and came quite a bit in handy! – and on the far wall are the words “BlackBerry Lounge” along with the BlackBerry logo. Fast forward to today when @emanintdot stopped in and both of those are gone (as you can see below).
We have just reached out to BlackBerry and TIFF to find out what happened to this long time sponsorship which suddenly ended and when we hear anything we will let you know what brought about these changes and why. Of course, it could be nothing other than a decision to spend marketing/sponsorship dollars elsewhere but it does seem sudden given BlackBerry being a big sponsor of TIFF for years and the BlackBerry Lounge being called the BlackBerry Lounge since the day the Lightbox opened in September 2010. As well, from what I have been told, BlackBerry has always been a big sponsor of TIFF itself so much so that the only app released for TIFF each year is one for BlackBerry devices. I wonder what the situation will be with the 2012 festival.
I went to the TIFF Bell Lightbox myself the other day to look into the situation some more and spoke to some of the employees there as well as took some pictures (although not as many as I would have liked but more on that later).
My first stop was the Lounge formerly known as the BlackBerry Lounge. I spoke to some people working there and they told me that RIM itself had sent people to take down the signage and it hadn’t been taken down by TIFF employees. As well, this had happened “before Christmas?” or “Definitely around the holiday season.” Obviously this isn’t something that was that important to the employees that they had noted it but I am guessing holiday season is also pretty busy in there. Currently, I was told, the naming rights for the Lounge are up for auction after RIM pulled out of their 4 year contract of which they had just completed Year One. Finally, as evideced by the above picture RIM remains still a TIFF sponsor just not a sponsor of the Lounge.
I then went downstairs thinking I had gotten what I’d come for but then I noticed a sign by the elevator which listed what was on each floor of the TIFF Bell Lightbox. Thinking I should check whether or not there was the same reference to the BlackBerry Lounge as I saw on the 2nd Floor Directory pictured above, I went over and noticed a reference to a “BlackBerry Lab” on the 4th Floor so I decided to head up there.
I spoke to a receptionist on the 4th Floor and she told me that the “BlackBerry Lab” was a board room for meetings in Toronto and wasn’t really a ‘lab.’ She started looking at me funny when I asked some more questions and I told her I had a very specific reason for asking about it – this article and this blog. She all of a sudden started being very quiet and handed me a card telling me to get in touch with the PR Department (which I had already done but nobody eve returned my call). The BlackBerry Lab was now an empty room and when I went to go take a picture of it she got very angry at me and started scolding me telling me I wasn’t allowed to take pictures of the empty room without contacting and getting approval from the PR office first. I promptly left after that scolding not bothering to tell her of all the pictures I had already taken and others which were already all over the Internet.
I wonder if all of this has anything to do with RIM’s new CEO, Thorsten Heins, and their search for a new CMO. I know their plans include a need to double down on consumers with marketing targeted towards them but don’t know what this shift means. Maybe they didn’t think enough average consumers were attending TIFF and seeing movies at the Lightbox in downtown Toronto? Maybe it’s just a cost saving measure while they figure out where they’re going to put their 100 million in ad dollars this quarter or their just waiting for that new CMO to make such decisions. Only time will tell.
BlackBerry Lounge 2010 image with BlackBerry branding via http://blog.tofilmfest.ca/.