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corporate sponsors

RMOW examines corporate sponsorship policies By Andy Stonehouse It's a position most communities would die to find themselves in: corporations literally lining up like suitors at the door, anxious for a shot at having their name attached to the money-making Whistler Resort name. But before taking things to the extreme and renaming local facilities, a la Vancouver's G.M. Place or the Ford Centre for the Performing Arts, local leaders say they would like to have some firm control on the very lucrative but potentially troublesome world of corporate sponsorships. Whistler council offered its support to a list of sponsorship guiding principles developed by staff, although at least one councillor admitted feeling a bit uncomfortable by the prospects of more business name brands being officially associated with the community. Councillor Ken Melamed said Whistler may also be setting a damaging precedent if it chooses to officially ally the entire community with one particular brand of soft drink or auto manufacturer, no matter how much money is thrown in our direction. "It's not in our benefit to become mono-anything... diversity is a real attractive feature," Melamed said. "We have a high standard here. After all, we refused the Golden Arches... but it may be difficult to refuse that in the future. It's really critical that we maintain that quality in the resort." Melamed said he also feels a bit squeamish about setting up deals with major corporations which could take on a life of their own. "I'm very afraid of making long-term contracts and binding future councils to them. I feel more comfortable looking to small-scale projects." As an example, Melamed said there has been some discussion about taking on the Hongkong Bank of Canada as the official sponsor of the Whistler Conference Centre, a move which would no doubt lead to some prominent product placement signs for the financial institution. Councillor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said the scale of sponsorships varies widely, which could make some partnership projects a little less unseemly than others. "There's a big difference between a sponsorship of $50 and one of $50 million... like the difference between re-naming Meadow Park as the Molson Centre versus adding the name Coca-Cola to the swimming lesson program," she said. Mayor Hugh O'Reilly said the community is still in the enviable position of having dozens of huge corporations vying for a chance at linking their name with Whistler, giving us a huge amount of flexibility. "Timing-wise, I think it's appropriate," O'Reilly said. "It's a way to get the revenue streams opened up. One major corporation has already submitted a letter of intent to us, and they already represent a huge place like New York City." Councillor Kristi Wells cited the example of the City of Calgary's myriad of corporate sponsorships, many of which have allowed that community to offer enhanced recreation programs and arts facilities. "They did it in a way that was very well-done and tasteful," she said. "We're fortunate that we can call the shots. We've got several potential sponsors at the door, and we don't need to go look for them. We also do have the ability to control them, and it's important that we set the parameters." Under the municipality's sponsorship guidelines, sponsors will be chosen whose philosophy and values are consistent with those of Whistler, with a fair and equitable solicitation of potential partners conducted. While the guidelines suggest that sponsorship arrangements will not be arranged with tobacco companies (as well as religious groups or political organizations), Melamed said he senses a bit of a double standard if alcohol companies are also considered for sponsorships. "There's some questions about ethics and morality, especially if we're not going to talk to tobacco companies but we say alcohol is less an evil... what makes alcohol less acceptable than tobacco? Do we have to select one over the other?" Council members were assured that they would be consulted before any major sponsorship partnership was arranged with the municipality.