It’s been almost seven months since Whistler-Blackcomb began the search for a partner on the Peak to Peak Gondola, and the company is still looking.
Construction on the gondola line, which will support 28 28-passenger sky cabins spanning the 4.4 kilometres between Whistler and Blackcomb, began in May, and is scheduled to be complete by December 2008.
Shortly after construction of the Peak to Peak Gondola commenced, Whistler-Blackcomb began working with IMG World, an international sports, entertainment and media group, to find a naming-rights partner for the project.
Stuart Rempel, senior vice president of marketing and sales for Whistler-Blackcomb, says they are still working with IMG World, and expect to make a decision by the end of the winter season.
“It’s long term, and we want somebody that wants to use the Peak to Peak Gondola as central to their marketing efforts and a partnership that’s good for us and good for the partner.”
Rempel is confident the Peak to Peak project will change the way people use the resort.
“It’s at the core of this total mountain experience that we have between the two mountains,” Rempel said. “Up until today, only 12 per cent of our skiers ski on both mountains in one day, and going forward, it’s going to expand that dramatically.”
So far, many companies have expressed interest in partnering on the project, and Rempel believes its because the project is the first of its kind and will set a number of world records.
“It’s a bold move, it’s a leadership move, and lots of companies are very, very excited about being part of not only the Peak to Peak Gondola, but Whistler-Blackcomb,” Rempel explained.
Lindsay Meredith, professor of marketing at Simon Fraser University, agrees that Whistler-Blackcomb won’t have any problem finding companies interested in being associated with the Peak to Peak Gondola, especially with additional exposure the 2010 Olympics will offer.
“What better way to get viewership of over a billion people who are known to watch Olympics, with the gondola and your name splashed around it in that background shot?” said Meredith.
The successful partner company will likely have the same stature and reputation in the corporate community as Intrawest, added Meredith.
“It’s going to be somebody who has got a very whistle-clean environmental record, for example, and has a high profile in that category.”
They would also need significant financial resources and similar target markets, which are basically in the high socioeconomic demographic, meaning major banks, high-end automobile or sporting good companies are all possible partners for the project.
There are also a variety of financing arrangements that could come into play with the partnership; Meredith says the company could choose to simply give money to Intrawest, or develop a corporate alliance by purchasing shares of the company.
Either way, the company that ends up partnering on the Peak to Peak won’t be in it to profit from ticket sales — they’ll be doing it for the prestige.
It will take a while for the corporate partner to break even on the $52 million investment, but Meredith says whoever is chosen will not only be tied to Whistler-Blackcomb, but VANOC and the Olympic Games.
“There is very, very high profile associated with belonging to the Olympics and this is what some partner is going to be buying, along with buying the Intrawest image, as well.”