Policy Number: CS-032
Responsibility: Finance Department
Approval: Mayor and Council
Approval Date: September 14, 2020, Revised September 13, 2021
Date of Next Review: 5 Years (2026)

1.0       Purpose

The City of Sarnia acknowledges that corporations, businesses, individuals, and service organizations may from time to time choose to support financially and/or materially municipal activities through sponsorships (including naming rights), advertising on City property or in City publications and/or charitable giving activities. The City supports the development of sustainable relationships between the City and the community, and encourages community groups, businesses, corporations, labour groups, civic organizations, industries, government agencies, colleges, universities, and others to join in developing municipal-business relationships with the City through various types of sponsorship, advertising and charitable giving arrangements for the benefit of the community.

The primary objective of the Policy parameters and guidelines is to establish a process to evaluate and accept or decline charitable giving and sponsorship opportunities and undertake advertising activities while safeguarding the City’s corporate values, image, assets, and interests while increasing the opportunities for revenue generation and third-party partnerships.

2.0       Policy Statement

The City welcomes and encourages sponsorships (including naming rights), charitable giving and advertising undertaken to assist in the provision of City services and projects while increasing opportunities for revenue generation through City assets and facilities.

Acceptable sponsorships, advertising and/or charitable giving provide benefits to the civil, cultural, artistic, or recreational programs of the City through the donations/contributions of products, services, or financial resources to the City. All sponsorships, charitable giving, and advertising shall be consistent with the City of Sarnia vision, mission and values and will not compromise or contradict any by-law or Policy of the City of Sarnia, or reflect negatively on the City’s Public image. All sponsorship and advertising agreements shall be established in a manner that ensures access and fairness, and results in the optimal balance of benefits to the City and the community.

3.0       Scope

Where financial considerations are involved as a result of municipal-business relationships, revenue opportunities for the City shall be optimized.

While encouraging business and community relationships, the City recognizes that it has a responsibility to provide as safe and secure an environment as possible for all residents. The City, with a “captive” clientele, will not become a vehicle for circulation of materials that may be perceived to be inflammatory in nature or intent.

This Policy applies to all relationships between the City of Sarnia, and businesses, organizations, and individuals that contribute either financially or in-kind to City programs, services, facilities or other City assets in return for recognition, public acknowledgement, or other promotional considerations. The Policy applies to the following but is not limited to:

  • Program and special event sponsorship;
  • Naming / renaming of City property, buildings and structures;
  • Pouring rights;
  • Paid advertising on City property, events, and in City publications;
  • Signage.


This policy does not apply to contracts where a service or product is provided to the City for a fee or to other arrangements the City enters into in order to manage its operations, such as those acquired under the Procurement Policy.

This policy does not take precedence over any policies, practices, or agreements with respect to advertising and associated in-kind service arrangements that are developed through purchasing contracts or other means.

4.0       Definitions

“Advertising” means the sale to an external company, organization, enterprise, association or individual of advertising space on City printed materials, property, City events, or in conjunction with a City program. Unlike sponsorship, advertising involves the simple purchase by an advertiser of advertising space sold at rates determined by the City. The purchaser of this space is not entitled to any additional benefits other than those accruing from access to the space purchased.

“City” means “The Corporation of the City of Sarnia”.

“Charitable Giving” means donations of money, goods, or services given to the City with no expectation of reciprocal provision of goods or services to the donor or detailed involvement of the donor in how donated funds are deployed or how donated goods are used.

“Ethical Scans” means a search of potential sponsor’s / advertiser’s main company and subsidiaries, if any, that is performed to determine if the sponsor / advertiser meets the requirements defined by the Policy.

“Form of Sponsorship” means:

  • Cash – A sponsorship received in the form of financial resources;
  • In-kind – Goods or services of value to the City are received rather than cash.

“Naming Rights” means a type of sponsorship in which an external company, organization, enterprise, association, or individual purchases the exclusive right to name an asset or venue, or part of a facility for a fixed period of time. Usually naming rights are considered in a commercial context, which is that the naming right is sold or exchanged for money or other considerations under a long-term agreement. This arrangement is usually documented in a written agreement signed by the interested parties and has a specified end date to the contractual obligations.

“Pouring Rights” means a type of sponsorship in which a corporation, organization or individual purchases the exclusive rights to supply beverages at a City facility in exchange for money and or other considerations over the term of an agreement.

“Sponsorship” means a mutual agreed to arrangement between the City and an external company, organization, enterprise, association, or individual evidenced in writing whereby the external party (sponsor) contributes money, goods, or services to a City of Sarnia facility, activity, series of activities, program, project or special event, or service, in return for recognition, acknowledgement, or other promotional considerations or benefits. This does not include donations and gifts, or advice to the City where no business relationship or association is contemplated or is required and where no reciprocal consideration is being sought. Generally, sponsorships shall be for a specific, short term, and limited purpose, usually no more than one year in duration. There will be no provision for automatic renewal or extension of the agreement and will be subject to an evaluation process.

5.0       Policy

General Administrative Considerations

Sponsorship and advertising agreements must comply with Federal, Provincial statutes, municipal by-laws or Council-adopted plans, and the standards set out by the Canadian Advertising Standards Council.

The City shall have the authority to accept or decline any form of charitable giving or sponsorship. Acceptance of charitable giving/sponsorships is at the sole discretion of the City.

In accordance with the City’s Code of Conduct, no employee of the City shall accept a personal gift in cash or kind, or benefit from a sponsor or charitable donor.

The following points may be considered in determining whether to accept a a form of charitable giving, sponsorship or advertising agreement. Concerns and clarification questions should be addressed by staff, in consultation with the donor, in advance.

  • There is a defined need
  • Offers significant civil, cultural, artistic or recreational benefits for residents
  • Causes minimal intrusion while enhancing City operations
  • City has sufficient funds to pay the costs of installation, on-going maintenance, repairs, and training or arrangement has been made to have the sponsor or charitable donor pay these costs
  • Will not lead to exploitation of the residents
  • Does not imply endorsement by the City
  • Expected acknowledgement is dignified, modest, reasonable, and consistent with this policy
  • Ensures protections against claims that are false or misleading
  • Donated goods and services are held to the same standard used for the selection and purchase of goods and services
  • Results in no encumbrances, liens, or debt on the part of the City
  • There are no unreasonable restrictions on use or time frames imposed by the donor

Sponsorship and Advertising Agreements

  • The City will maintain control over the planning and delivery of sponsorship activities
  • Potential sponsors / advertisers will be subject to an ethical scan
  • Agreements shall not in any way invoke future consideration, influence, or be perceived to influence the day-to-day business of the City
  • Sponsorship or marketing / advertising relationship must not cause a City employee to receive any product, service or assets for personal gain or use
  • Advertising devices must not impact the quality and integrity of the City’s properties, buildings, streetscape, and provide no added risks to safety
  • The sponsorship opportunity should be appropriate to the target audience

The advertisement of a product or service does not act as the City’s endorsement of any one product or service over another.

Naming Rights

All proposals for naming rights will be presented to Council for approval.

Should a component of a facility already be subject to naming rights when a proposal for the naming of the entire facility is received, the agreement for the component naming rights will be honoured for the duration of the agreement.

Naming rights will not be considered for facilities that have been named in honour of prominent citizens or events at the direction of Council or for facilities or equipment that has been donated to the City. 

Charitable Giving

The CAO and General Managers have delegated authority to accept cash donations of a value up to $100,000 over a term up to two (2) years or one-time donations of goods and/or services of a value up to $100,000 without requiring Council approval.

Any donations greater than $100,000 or that include exclusive privileges to the donor will require approval of Council.

Tax receipts will be issued for eligible cash donations greater than $10. The City is able to issue tax receipts for donations of furniture, equipment, or similar items valued $1,000 or less. In accordance with Canada Revenue Agency’s recommendation, donated items valued at more than $1,000 may require an independent assessment by a third party, at the expense of the donor, before the City can issue a tax receipt.

New or used equipment must be at a standard acceptable for use in Municipal facilities and meet the City’s specifications as may be deemed appropriate by the City. Equipment must be installed according to the standards of the City. Due to the intense efforts required to standardize and eliminate electronic risk, used computer equipment cannot be accepted.

The City will consider costs of installation, maintenance, repairs, and training, where necessary, to ensure funds are available to support the acceptance of the donated equipment.

If accepted, donations shall become the property of the City.


The CAO and General Managers have delegated authority to accept sponsorships of a value up to $50,000 with a term up to one (1) year without requiring Council approval. Sponsorship agreements exceeding $50,000 in amount or longer than one (1) year in duration or that include exclusive privileges to the sponsor will require Council approval and shall be confirmed by contract with the City.

Sponsor activity must not infringe on any collective agreement or labour relations practices and must be consistent with the Procurement of Goods and Services Policy.


The CAO and General Managers have the delegated authority to undertake advertising activities.

Advertising and marketing are commercial transactions. City staff have the authority to accept and implement advertising and marketing proposals.  Proposals must comply with the considerations noted in General Administrative Considerations.

Advertising on Transit vehicles and facilities will be coordinated through the Transit Department.

All other advertising will be coordinated by the Communications Group. This includes:

  • advertising within arena facilities (rink boards, score board, Zamboni, etc.);
  • advertising in the Sarnia Community Activities Guide;
  • advertising support for specific events.

Restrictions for Sponsorship and Advertising

The City will not solicit or accept sponsorship or advertising from companies whose reputation or business practices could prove detrimental to the City’s public image and / or whose main business is derived from the following:

  • Cigarettes, cigars or any tobacco or cannabis product;
  • The sale of weapons;
  • Adult entertainment;
  • Liquor, wine, beer or any alcoholic beverage advertisements will be permitted as long as they do not contravene the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards;
  • Products or services that present demeaning or derogatory portrayals of individuals or groups or contain anything, which in light of generally prevailing community standards, is likely to cause deep or widespread offence.

In addition:

  • The City will not accept advertising of questionable taste in its content or method of presentation. Advertising must be free from offensive language or racial connotation;
  • Advertising which tends to disparage a political candidate, or party, or cause will not be allowed;
  • Religious advertising which promotes a specific ideology, ethnic, point of view policy or action, which in the opinion of the City might be deemed prejudicial to other religious groups or offensive to the public is not permitted. Religious advertising will be permitted if the information is designed to promote a specific meeting, gathering or event, if the information is confined to the subject, name of speaker, location date and time of the event.

Although the City is guided by the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards and not withstanding any other provision to this document or of the contract, the City is the sole and final arbiter in all matters relating to the acceptance of advertisement on all identified advertising opportunities.

Unsolicited Sponsorship Proposals

Unsolicited sponsorship proposals received by the City will be reviewed and evaluated as per the provisions of this Policy and may be declined, accepted, referred, or reported to Council.

The City reserves the right to reject any unsolicited sponsorship that has been offered to the City and to refuse to enter into agreements for any sponsorship that originally may have been openly solicited by the City.

Sponsorship and Advertising Agreements

All sponsorships and advertising shall be confirmed in a formal agreement.

In-Kind Services

City Staff may explore and navigate any opportunities that may arise in which the City may receive “goods and services” in exchange for negotiated signage. This type of transaction will not increase revenue but will decrease operating expenses and is a tool used when planning for capital improvements.


While public recognition may not be the primary rationale for a charitable gift or sponsorship, the City appreciates that it may be appropriate to recognize, thank, or publicly acknowledge the donor’s or sponsor’s support.

Donors and sponsors may be recognized in an appropriate manner such as, but not limited to: in programs, directories, media releases, newsletters, posters, signage/brochures, and at Committee/Council meetings. Use of corporate logos and slogans should be appropriate or as defined in an agreement. There shall be no actual or implied obligation to purchase the product or services of the sponsor.

Each charitable giving and sponsorship arrangement should have an agreed upon acknowledgement plan prior to accepting the charitable gift or sponsorship. The acknowledgement plan shall be approved by the City in consultation with the donor or sponsor. The Treasurer, in conjunction with the Communications Coordinator (or designate), will ensure the donor or sponsor acknowledgement plan is acceptable and consistent with this policy.

Review of Existing Sponsorships

All multi-year sponsorship agreements shall be evaluated annually to determine the continued benefit. The term of all agreements with the exception of Naming Rights shall not exceed three (3) years unless authorized by the CAO in consultation with the City Solicitor.

Naming Rights terms shall be available for a term of up to ten (10) years and minimum of (5) years may be renewed as per direction from City Council.

The City reserves the right to terminate an existing sponsorship or advertising agreement should conditions be deemed to no longer be in the best interests of the City, such as in the case of:

  • Failure of payment from the sponsorship or advertising partner;
  • That the Sponsor may have or be perceived to have unethical practices, to be determined at the sole discretion of the City;
  • A change in the Sponsor’s status or product that if, through association, has a negative impact on the City.

6.0       Roles and Responsibilities

This Policy is administered by the Treasurer jointly with relevant General Managers and appropriate consultation with the CAO and Council.

7.0       Related Policies