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Air Canada becomes 2010 Games sponsor

Deal provides financial support for Paralympians, raised profile



By Clare Ogilvie

Air Canada is the latest multi-million dollar sponsor for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

And along with the cash and value-in-kind the airline has launched a public fundraising campaign for Canada’s Paralympians.

“Up until the Games in 2000 in Sydney our Paralympic athletes on the Canadian team had to basically pay their own way,” said Brian MacPherson, chief operating officer for the Canadian Paralympic Committee.

“Every dime that is raised in this fashion by Air Canada will go to flight credits and every single one of those flight credits will be used by an athlete.”

MacPherson said the campaign would also help promote the Paralympic movement to Canadians.

Air Canada has pledged to give a total of over $600,000 over the next six years to the Canadian Paralympic Committee. The airline will be donating $1 from every on-line booking made through its website during a designated annual campaign period. In 2007, the campaign will be held during the week of April 30.

The six-year partnership includes sponsorship rights and transportation for the Canadian Olympic teams participating at the Beijing 2008, Vancouver 2010 and London 2012 Olympic Games.

“All of us at Air Canada are honoured to support the Olympic and Paralympic spirit,” said Montie Brewer, President and Chief Executive Officer.

Air Canada is a tier two “official supporter” of the Games, making a financial contribution between $15 million and $50 million.

“I can’t remember a time like this in all the years that I have been involved in sport where companies have been so quick to be supportive,” said VANOC CEO John Furlong, who logged over 360,000 miles last year by air. “It really is what defines success.”

He also welcomed Air Canada’s support of Para-athletes.

“We have asked almost every company that has signed on to be our partner to support the idea that the athletes are key to the success of the Games,” said Furlong. “So by taking on some responsibility to support the program they add a lot of value to that program and it says a lot about them and it says a lot about their motivation.”

Furlong pointed to the success seen this winter by both able-bodied and disabled athletes on Canada’s teams as support continues to grow while the 2010 clock ticks down the months until the Games.

“You can see what happens when everybody does something and what you have to do is to get everybody to do something and that is what is happening,” he said.

Negotiations between VANOC and Air Canada lasted for several months in a deal that was sealed last year.

In the end it was the airline of choice because it flies throughout Canada and to international Olympic destinations.

“They clearly have the most capacity to deliver what we need from an airline service standpoint and they have also been a frequent sponsor of previous Games,” said VANOC’s executive vice president for revenue marketing and communications, Dave Cobb.

Up to this latest sponsorship announcement VANOC had raised at least $667.5 million, including ancillary Olympic programs.

VANOC's marketing program is focused on securing mutually rewarding partnerships with shared values to generate sufficient revenue to host successful Winter Games in 2010 and to leave a financial legacy for sport. VANOC’s International Partners include Coca-Cola, Atos Origin, GE, McDonald’s, Omega and Visa. VANOC's National Partners are Bell Canada, Hbc, RBC Financial Group, GM Canada, Petro-Canada, and RONA. VANOC’s Official Supporters include the British Columbia Lottery Corporation, Canadian Pacific, Jet Set Sports, Ricoh, the Royal Canadian Mint and Teck Cominco Limited. VANOC’s Official Suppliers are Birks, Dow Canada, EPCOR, Haworth Canada, Vincor and Workopolis.

None of this would be possible if investors thought their investment could be diluted by ambush marketing said Cobb, when asked about VANOC’s decision to push for legislation to address the issue along with trade marking various phrases including “Sea to Sky Games”.

“Virtually every company we talk to is aware of the commitment the government of Canada made during the bid to put this legislation in place and thereby protect the investment sponsors have made and are making,” he said.

“They are investing a lot of their time and their energy and their money and they expect us to do everything we can to ensure that they remain exclusive in the product category and that non-Olympic sponsors don’t gain any rights they are paying for, so it is very important.”