Doing More with More: How Corporate Partners are Elevating the Olympic Movement in Canada

Bill Cooper
, Chief Operating Partner

The Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games were a watershed for Canada. That much is clear. The Games were branded as “Canada’s Games” for the first time, and sparked never before seen levels of connection and patriotism in Canadians across the country. They galvanized the Canadian spirit and elevated the potential of our high performance sport system. With the halo of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games shinning bright, and so many Canadian values and inspiring performances on display in Russia over the last couple weeks, this legacy has not only lasted – it’s actually gained momentum.

Like an acceptance speech at the Oscars, it’s impossible to recognize everyone who contributed to the winning of the prestigious award (although Jared Leto started the show by trying). In the case of Vancouver’s Olympic legacy, I’m not even going to try. I am, however, going to focus on one aspect of the legacy – Athlete Support – and the corporate partners that are working so hard to elevate our sport system to new heights.

In 2010, we started working with the Canadian Olympic Committee on their sponsorship strategy and on renewing and signing new partners for the next two Olympic Games at the time: Sochi and Rio. It was clear from the beginning that our product (if we can call it that for the sake of simplicity) wasn’t the Committee per se. Rather, our product, was the Canadian Olympic Team itself and, perhaps more importantly, what being a member of that team means to the Olympians who train and compete for our country on the world stage and the impact that that team has on Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

It was a powerful insight that shaped the development of the entire partnership program and influenced every partnership conversation and resulting discussion.

Today, the Canadian Olympic Committee has a family of world class partners that have developed Olympic marketing platforms that focus on storytelling that allows them to connect with Canadian consumers. Just as importantly, however, is that the story is coming to life through purposeful athlete-first programing and activation. Every Games, we’re seeing greater examples of partnerships that make a real difference in the lives of Olympians, and that difference is being measured in world beating athlete performances and podium finishes on the World Cup and Olympic stage.

Petro-Canada FACE Program
The Petro-Canada FACE Program provides funding to athletes and their coach to help them move towards achieving national carded status. These up and coming athletes are striving towards their ultimate goal of competing in the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Petro-Canada fuels the dreams of 50 athletes annually by providing the athlete and their coaches with an $8,000 grant that can be used towards training, equipment and travel. Non-carded athletes do not receive any government funding and rely on programs like FACE to chase their dreams. Thus far, the FACE program has helped over 2,400 athletes and coaches by providing more than $8,000,000 in support.

Bell Athletes Connect
Bell renewed its long-standing partnership with the Canadian Olympic Committee in 2012 and made athlete connection a fundamental aspect of the partnership. Bell Athletes Connect is the only program of its kind in the world and allows 2,000 athletes to stay connected to coaches, fellow athletes, family and friends by providing complimentary cell phones and services. This program allows athletes to stay connected to their support network and focus on training for the podium by providing them with the tools to stay connected during their hectic training and competition schedules no matter where they are in the world.

Air Canada Elite
The Air Canada Altitude Podium Program helps Olympic and Paralympic athletes by providing the athletes with complimentary Altitude status. Altitude status enhances the athletes travel experience by offering exclusive privileges and services, allowing them to focus on their training. Some of the benefits include, but are not limited to, no additional checked baggage fee, access to Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounges and partner lounges and priority check-in.

RBC Olympians
The RBC Olympians program helps Canadian Olympic and Paralympic athletes by hiring them as community ambassadors to bring Olympic messages of excellence and leadership to Canadian communities. The athletes receive funding from RBC to help them realize their Olympic and Paralympic dreams as well as gain valuable skills that will help them in their lives after sport.

And it doesn’t end there. P&G and Petro-Canada ensure moms and families enjoy smooth access to watching the culmination of so many years of hard work at each Games, Molson adds further individual athlete funding on top of their investment into the partnership program, Teck provides commemorative rings to Olympians at each Games, HBC generates consumer enthusiasm through popular apparel and fan engagement/fundraising through the red mitten program, and BMW, Adidas, and others each support a team of Olympians on their journey to the next Olympic Games.

What’s more, is that this family of corporate partners has also contributed significantly to the broader sport system through their support of the Olympic Movement. For example, recently, the Canadian Olympic Committee has doubled its investment back into the high performance sport system, and renewed commitments to Own The Podium, Canada Games Council, and the Canadian Centre For Ethics In Sport to name a few. These investments are made possible by the Olympic partners and, most importantly, are ensuring the long-term growth and sustainability of the Olympic Movement in Canada.

Olympic legacies can be fickle but thanks to the support of an amazing family of corporate partners and many, many others, we are doing MORE for the Movement in Canada.

PHOTO CREDIT: Canadian Freestyle Ski Association