What is Your Brand Doing This Winter?.

By Posted in - Sponsorship on September 5th, 2017

Options other than, ahem, Hockey

In Canada, when brands think winter sports sponsorship, many inevitably default to hockey.  From grassroots to development leagues like the Canadian Hockey League to the holy grail of the NHL and Olympic hockey, brands sponsor hockey players, teams, leagues and TV broadcasts and create hockey-focused CSR programs. It’s understandable. Hockey is part of Canada’s DNA – we live and breathe it whether we play it, watch it or chauffer our kids to rinks on dark frigid mornings. Some brands have significant budgets to create their own hockey brand while others become a small or medium fish in a very large pond. The one thing these brands all have in common is their need to cut through the clutter.

At the risk of sounding like a heretic and upsetting a few, I suggest that some brands and their agencies could dig a little deeper in their sponsorship decisions. Looking beyond the gilded gates of hockey, brands would find that Canada is very rich in winter sports with passionate, influential and brand-loyal participants and fan bases, where Canada boasts many of the world’s top elite athletes and teams as well as powerful grassroots and competitive programs and events.

And unlike hockey, these winter sports don’t demand a high cost of entry. (Higher rights fees consume a good chunk of marketing budgets while leaving minimal activation dollars to allow agencies to tell the brand stories that emotionally connect with their target demo). It might seem on strategy to be part of the hockey scene but if your budget only allows for mass impressions, it’s not winning. You might as well do a media buy on a NHL broadcast instead.

So Much Choice. So Much Winning.

Now, we are not bashing hockey or any other professional sport but there are alternative options to hockey which allows brands to differentiate from the competition and tell their story in a convincing manner. Two other winter sports properties that are highly targeted at the millennial demographic and typically offer much lower rights fees, include Snowboarding and Freestyle Skiing. Sponsorship investments in these properties can leave more money with agencies, marketing directors and sponsorship gurus to do what they do best: build awareness while promoting trial and connecting directly to their consumers in a meaningful, compelling way.

Some quick facts about the Canadian Ski and Snowboard Industry from the Canadian Ski Council.

  • Approximately 275 Canadian ski areas/resorts see more over 19 million visits per season
  • Canadian skiers and snowboarders ski or snowboard an average of 7.5 days per year
  • Based on 7.5 average days per year, we estimate that there are 2.5 million skiers and snowboarders in Canada (and over 9 million combined who ski or snowboard less regularly)
  • Canadian ski and snowboard participants generally come from upper income families ($101,175.00  average household income)
  • 14.2% of Canadians over the age of 12 participate in skiing and snowboarding.
  • Majority of skiers and snowboarders advise that their motivation for skiing and snowboarding is to do “Something together as a family”.

DEC S&E’s winter line-up of sports properties is comprised of some of the most exciting, passionate and talented Canadian athletes who are primed for an Olympic medal payload at PyeongChang 2018.

  • Freestyle Canada’s athletes are the best in the world and, collectively, they have contributed to winning the International Ski Federation’s (“FIS”) Freestyle Ski Nations Cup 10 of the 11 past years. Canadian freestyle skiing athletes won 7 medals at 2014 Olympic Winter Games and, since the Games of 2014, they have amassed 10 FIS World Championship medals, 87 FIS World Cup medals and 6 X-Games medals. Some of the key athletes to watch include: The Dufour-Lapointe Sister, Mikael Kingsbury, Dara Howell, Simon D’Artois and more.
  • Canada Snowboard’s national team is a world powerhouse earning over 38 World Cup, World Championship, and TTR Elite podiums (as well as 2 Crystal Globes) during the 2016/17 season. Anticipation for Olympic medals this winter is justified. Athletes to watch include: Mark McMorris, Maxence Parrot, Sebastien Toutant. Spencer O’Brien.

When your brand sponsors Freestyle Canada or Canada Snowboard, you are part of their teams, from the grassroots programs through to national competitions, world championships and the Winter Olympic Games.

And you’ll reach an energetic youthful demographic who consistently over indexes against the general public in key sponsor loyalty measures:

  • 64% believe that companies involved in sponsoring sports gain in appeal (vs. 46% gen pop)
  • 73% are very/somewhat likely to consider a company’s brand, product or service when that company sponsors an event or sport that they follow (vs. 53% gen pop)

Other notable stats about Canadian Snowboarders and Freestyle Skiers and their fans based on Nielsen research include:

  • They are twice as likely than the general population to:
    • Actively participate in social media sports content
    • Consider themselves early adopters of new, innovative products
  • They are influencers, more likely to recommend a product they like than the general population
  • They spend far more heavily on travel, technology/electronics, clothing/shoes, groceries, restaurant eating, entertainment fitness memberships and home improvement/gardening
  • They prefer to support companies/brands that care about the community and their consumers well being and are even likely to switch to brands that do good in the community

Research also shows that snowboarders and skiers are closely aligned on key demographic details with only minimal differences:

  • They skew male (over 50%)
  • 50%+ are married or live with partners
  • 67%+ have no children under 18 years living in their homes
  • 77+ have lived in Canada their whole life
  • 47% have incomes over $70K
  • Mostly reside in Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta

It’s About the ROI

DEC S&E understands brands have sponsorship ROI measures to meet. We’ll customize your sponsorships, creating programs that are relevant and resonate with Canada Snowboard’s and Freestyle Canada’s highly populated millennial demographic to deliver against your brand’s marketing objectives.

Of course your brand will benefit from meaningful impressions on-site, in-broadcast, digital, social media and advertising, but there’s so much more we can add to the total package, including:

  • One-of-a-kind, money-can’t-buy experiences
  • Onsite activations and sampling
  • Exciting and refreshed and customized digital content
  • VIP hospitality
  • Database building and outreach
  • Retail activations
  • Unique Contesting
  • One-on-one marketing

Join some of the biggest brands that have made their mark within these winter properties, including Mazda, Toyota, Sport Chek, Mackenzie Financial, Burton, Columbia and more. While we might not want to admit it, winter will be here before we know it. What will your brand be doing to reach your consumers?  Let us provide you with some options.

Note that the 2018 Winter Olympic Games are only six months away but there’s still time for your brand to align with two of Canada’s premier sports properties that will be dominating the spotlight. Come join us for the ride.

For more information on our entire DEC Calendar, please click here: https://we.tl/Buhi91yDxc

Special thanks to Carol Starr for her  contribution to this article.