A Sponsorship Story Worth Telling.
The 2010 Olympics were over the top for Canada.
Our athletes achieved the best results in the history of the Winter Games, and Vancouver had the eyes of the world watching. It was also a time for many brands to shine and tell their story through athletes, communities and via digital and traditional media: to propel them to the forefront.
The fastest growing sporting goods manufacturer in the world at the time, however, was absent: Under Amour.
Meanwhile Canada Snowboard had enjoyed a seven-year relationship with Canadian manufacturer RMP Athletic (or Ripzone/Powderoom). They supported the National Team, National Championships, World Cups and sponsored athletes directly, with their own lines of outerwear: making it possible for athletes to remain competitive for their country. At the time, Ripzone’s dedicated staff and owners were an ideal partner for Canada’s national snowboard program, showing up at all events and major media conferences.
Beyond the direct partnership, they introduced our team to the likes of Sport Chek, ran national contests with major media partners and socialized personally with our athletes, office and volunteers. But, like all good things that grow and change the partnership came to an end. Canada Snowboard was grateful for a long and healthy run and it was time to search for the next best partner.
Helping Canada Snowboard Build The Best Team: Marketing & Sponsorship being in sync with the High Performance Program
As the 2010 Games finished, the next quadrennial also ushered in a new High Performance Director, Bob Joncas, or more commonly known as “Le Bob”. Bob’s vision was not just to build another solid snowboard team to compete for gold again in 2014, but to build the best high performance program, period.
This meant a number of things including intense off-season dry-land training combined with high-energy on-snow focus, proper nutrition, support teams and more. This was to be the crème de la crème of preparation for Olympic glory for the athletes and Canada.
What Canada Snowboard didn’t need was another snowboard outerwear sponsor; rather it was time for a high performance outerwear partnership. With that said, we spoke with all of the regulars in the industry: Burton, Oakley, Billabong, etc. All of them were (and continue to be) supportive of our national team, of what we had accomplished and where we were going but it just wasn’t enough. Canada Snowboard needed a partner with a shared vision for snowboarding, and that was our mission.
Snowboarders are a unique breed. Back in the day they rolled out of bed strapped on a board, competed on the hill, and then partied. There was little technical preparation, it was a way of life for them, hanging out with friends and having fun was enough. Or was it? Canada demanded a winning team and in order to keep up with the rest of the world this attitude had to change.
Bringing Top Tier Brands To The Table
Fast forward to March of 2010. DEC Sports narrowed the search to three brands A-list high performance brands: 1) Nike, 2) Adidas and 3) Under Armour. Nike was very interested. They had previously launched their 6.0 line with great success and were taking the product to another level in the US. In Canada however things were different, as they did not have the necessary resources like they did south of the border.
Adidas was a no go from the start as they were in between snowboard lines and it didn’t seem to make sense to them or Canada Snowboard. Finally, there was Under Armour who was enthusiastic from the start. When we placed the call to Managing Director Matt Shearer, it was clear he immediately “got it”.
Now, every sponsorship should tell a story. DEC Sports isn’t here to sell banners and logos, we’re here to strike a chord of emotion, provide brands with compelling content and influence the esteem of their brand through stories relevant to their demographic. As a former high performance athlete, Matt knew the power of the story, what it meant for the sport and for Under Armour brand in Canada and around the World.
Under Armour Partners With Canada Snowboard
The proposal to UA encompassed every season, not just winter. (This would not only expand the value proposition for UA from solely owning a winter property, it would expand it to an all-year-round property providing greater awareness of the Canada Snowboard brand and UA association all year long.) Under Armour would supply Canada’s national team from head to toe with: dry land training gear, shoes, socks, base layer, shorts, shirts, hoodies, warm ups, hats, toques, heart rate monitors, mouth guards and this was just the beginning. Outfitting high performance athletes off-snow with some of the best product available before they actually got on-snow.
There was even talk of running a hockey-like-combine to test snowboard athletes with key metrics that would determine where they rank in strength, agility, balance and more. Winter started with jackets, pants, base layers, socks and more and every member of the national team including coaches and staff were kitted out with UA’s best – but, respectfully, the apparel wasn’t yet the best for high performance snowboard athletes and there was work to be done.
After the first year of our growing relationship, UA kicked it into high gear. They brought product development staff into Canada to test their gear in wind tunnels, on mountains and in training rooms. UA invested in our national team and the sport ten-fold, further expanding to World Cup competitions and a handful of national team athletes. And as of today, they have created some of the best high performance gear for snowboarding in the world.
The UA sponsorship story is not just about the gear our national team snowboarders are wearing, rather it is about the four year journey our athletes made with UA to get them to Sochi. Proudly wearing the UA brand with the Canadian flag – making us as proudly Canadian as when Henderson scored that illustrious goal in 1972 for Team Canada.
The drive to be better, work harder and bolster every move a snowboarder makes in the Spring, Summer, Winter and Fall to propel them to a gold standard is the partnership we achieved for Canada Snowboard. The Under Armour Brand is about winning. Being the best you can be. The outcome is the medal around your neck and that is only part of the story. The larger picture includes, the hours in the gym and the dedication to the program all year long. So when one of our athletes climbs onto the podium in Sochi in 2014, it will be clear who helped them get there every step of the way.
Sochi, Here We Come…
Best of luck to all Canada Snowboard athletes, staff, sponsors and volunteers who make up our proud team. We cannot wait to watch!
Special thanks to every member of the Under Armour team in Canada and in the USA who helped drive this sponsorship. The story is compelling. We can’t wait to read the ending!