Despite the success of Canada's snowboard team at the 2010 Games — two gold medals and a silver — Canada Snowboard has been on a long search for sponsors to help offset the cost of running world-class programs.
That search bore fruit last week with the announcement that Mazda Canada had signed on as a National Team-level sponsor through 2015, providing a combination of funding and vehicle use over the duration of the partnership. Mazda is also a lead sponsor for the FIS World Snowboard Championships in Quebec in January.
Steve Hills, the executive director at Canada Snowboard, said Mazda was a good fit for the organization.
"We at Canada Snowboard couldn't have found a more parallel approach to our philosophy of developing athletes and programs," he said in a release. "Furthermore, we are proud to stand alongside a company that adopted the Mazda Global Environmental Charter, which includes zero landfill measure, fuel efficiency improvement and reduction of emissions."
Pique followed up with Hills this week to find out more. According to Hills, Mazda will sport a patch on the team uniforms, which are provided by Under Armour, another national level sponsor. Most of their contributions for this year will revolve around the world championships, while they are also contributing one vehicle to team members based in Vancouver and Sea to Sky, and another to athletes in Quebec. As well, funding in the future will go towards development level programs in the future.
"They've come on board with us in a big way at a very good time for us," confirmed Hills. "The interest from sponsors is a little more modest than it's been in the past, it's the same story for other sports including alpine and freestyle, and recently we haven't been able to do as much as we could before the 2010 Olympics. These sponsors are still very valuable to us (even if federal funding has increased through Own the Podium).
"One of the areas we're all hurting, including alpine and freestyle, is with funding for all of the development level things, like putting money into events and talent identification for the next generation — that's where we're struggling. We have lots of dough for Sochi, but beyond that it's less clear. That's where the funding support from Mazda is really important."
Hills said the program is now feeling better about its prospects in the long-term, and is confident that some of the other sponsorship opportunities that are currently being discussed will come through. In particular, he's hoping to announce another sponsor for the world championships within a few weeks.
The goal is to sign sponsors for the long term, rather than around Olympic cycles. "The sponsors always come, but if you can appreciate it in some ways it's a little too late," he said. "It's hard to make plans, run programs and run series of competitions and events with money you think you'll have, that money needs to be in the bank before you can do all of that stuff."