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Hunt Is On For WSSF Sponsorship Money

Pique News Magazine, May 10, 2012

by Alison Taylor

Without the deep pockets of Telus backing up Whistler's signature winter festival, organizers are now looking elsewhere for hundreds of thousands in sponsorship dollars for the 2013 event.

Just how easy that is in today's economic climate and what it means for the arts, music and sports of the World Ski and Snowboard Festival if they fall short remains to be seen, particularly as the push is on to raise the online and broadcast profile of the festival next year.

"We're looking for a big sum of money in the Canadian marketplace and that's tough in 11 months," admitted Sue Eckersley, president of Watermark Communications, which produces the festival.

But, as with every year, she's committed to leaving "no stone unturned" in the search to fill the gap of "title sponsor" left by Telus.

Telus had been the title sponsor for the past 13 years.

Its most current contract, spanning the past seven years, was up at the end of the 2012 festival. Eckersley learned at the end of February that the company would not be renewing and that the World Ski and Snowboard Festival, often called "Telus Fest," would be without its main sponsor. It was a surprising and disappointing blow.

Typically title sponsors put up about 50 per cent of an event's budget.

While she would not disclose just how much money Telus brought to the table, or the festival's budget, Eckersley categorized Telus's commitment as "a significant amount."

Contacted last week, Telus spokesman Chris Gerritsen confirmed the company would no longer be a part of WSSF.

"We won't be the title sponsor of the event moving forward, but we are looking at other sponsorship opportunities and to continue building on that great relationship we have with Whistler Blackcomb."

Gerritsen said Telus looks at its sponsorships every year making decisions based on what is best for the brand and the company.

That analysis is part of a growing trend among companies given today's economic climate, said William Chipps, senior editor with IEG Sponsorship Report, a consulting and sponsorship research firm based out of Chicago.

"Five or ten years ago a lot of companies were throwing money at sponsorship hoping for some return on investment," said Chipps.

"Nowadays (the recessions has) forced more companies to really ask themselves the question: are we generating return on investment from this particular sponsorship?"

Though he is not familiar with the WSSF, Chipps said the fact that it's established, that it draws big numbers and that it had a long-running partnership with a title sponsor all work in its favour for finding a replacement sponsor.

But that long-running partnership also works against WSSF, he added.

"Telus, because they've been the title sponsor of this event for 13 years, they have a lot of what's called 'brand equity' with the event," said Chipps. "So probably a lot of the time when people think of this event they think of the Telus event. That's a challenge for a replacement sponsor. Because Telus has so much brand equity built up with its association that people are going to continue to think of the event with Telus even though Telus is no longer with the event.