TTG Insights: Canadian Sponsorship Forum 2014

Alyson Schmidt,

The Canadian Sponsorship Forum is a signature event for Canadian sponsorship marketers. This year, the event was held in the Nation’s capital, Ottawa, and featured speakers from a range of properties, brands and agencies. To top it off, attendees also enjoyed a road hockey game and a trip to the Ottawa Blues Fest.  I was lucky enough to represent the TwentyTen Group at the conference as a first time attendee and I brought back some of my key insights from the experience.

What session left the biggest impression on you and why?

There were so many great speakers at this year’s forum it was very hard to choose. The tie goes to, Andy Shibata from Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) and his insights on sponsorship as marketing’s “swear word” and Chris Overholt’s keynote on the Canadian Olympic Committee’s #WeAreWinter campaign.

Andy Shibata’s presentation was very engaging and took an honest look at the growth and changes in the perception of sponsorship over the last decade. The main message I took away was twofold: the only thing that is guaranteed in the next 20 years is change, and it is up to those of us in the industry to take ownership of its future and shape it in a positive way. Andy admitted that this was the first time he swore on stage, which made for more than few laughs.

It comes as no surprise that Chris Overholt treated the audience to a fantastic final session. I have been fortunate enough to see Chris speak many times before and am always impressed with his ability to engage a room in such a way that makes you think to yourself, how does this guy do it? His presentation demonstrated the incredible growth the COC has undergone under his leadership and highlighted how the COC has changed the game through a targeted vision to transform the Committee to refocus on the athletes. Putting our Canadian Olympic athletes at the heart of it all enabled the COC to achieve unimagined levels of engagement from both corporate Canada and the Canadian public. Chris finished his presentation by proudly saying that their measurement of success is shown on the faces of Canadian Olympians from coast to coast, and shared this video as proof, take a look.

What trends in measurement and valuation came forth through this year’s content?

A reoccurring theme around measurement was the importance of clearly articulating your goals and objectives at the outset of any partnership and being sure not get caught letting anyone else dictate what success means to your organization.

Both Andy Shibata from RBC, and Stephen Ikilw from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), shared stories of how they created very successful partnerships with athletes and events alike, which may not have been deemed successful based on traditional ROI metrics such as media impressions or product sales but actually exceeded internal expectations when it came to expanding into desirable markets and building relationships with key stakeholders.

RBC began investing in golf to increase brand awareness in the US, which has turned into one of the most impactful partnerships for the Canadian bank. PwC used well known cyclist Ryder Hesjedal not to increase overall brand awareness but create passion point experiences for executives and secure a coveted client account. These are two great examples of how knowing your organizations goals and staying focused on your unique measurement of success will enable you to drive results that matter to your brand

Canadian Sponsorship Forum is known for their morning run, did you take part?

I took part in the Thursday morning run with about a dozen other delegates and it was a fantastic way to start the day. It’s incredible what you can find out about industry leaders while touring the Rideau Canal on foot. Did anyone else know Norm O’Reilly once beat Simon Whitfield in a triathlon? He may have been 14, but the record books live on forever!

How did the ball hockey tournament go? Did you score a goal?

The ball hockey tournament was enjoyed by all, including myself, mainly due to the fact that our client Pete Quevillon from KidSport and I were members of the victorious White Stripes who defeated our colleague Bart Given from TORQUE Strategies in the final. Admittedly, I was more of a liability than an asset on the road but I didn’t hurt myself or anyone else and made my keep by cheering on our leading goal scorers (Neal Convant from IMI International and Mario Courchesne from the Montreal Canadiens).

What were the key learnings that emerged among the speakers at this year’s forum?

Although there was a wide variety of content at the forum, I took away three simple yet powerful insights that were imbedded into many of the presentations throughout the week:

  1. Relationships are everything, especially in sponsorship
  2. Brands need to focus on doing fewer things better to achieve more impactful results
  3. Partnerships can only reach their full potential when both parties are engaged. This means as a property, strive to be your partner’s best partner (and in the words of Kelly Fawcett from TELUS, please give them good fulfillment reports!) and as a brand, never stop engaging with your properties and foster an environment where you work together to achieve results.