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Sponsorship pilot program to kick off with RFP

Concerns raised that program may impact Whistler's 'brand'

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When it comes to sponsors, Whistler has a clear idea of who it wants on its buildings and programs. And, more to the point, who it doesn't want plastered all over them.

In simple terms: "We don't want to be Nascar," said John Rae, the municipality's manager of strategic alliances of the garish display of advertisers on racecars. "We'd rather be Wimbledon. We'd rather be the Masters."

Subtle. Classy. Intuitive.

That was the lens through which the municipality's new sponsorship policy has been developed with an aim to generating sponsorship revenue in 2015.

The idea behind the policy is that it will allow the municipality to earn some money, but at the same time protect the Whistler brand and preserve the guest experience.

"I think we do have an opportunity, but I think it's a very fine line we walk down," said Councillor Roger McCarthy.

To begin, Whistler's sponsorship program will kick off with a pilot project through municipal Festivals, Events & Animation programs.

In other words the Whistler Presents concert series or the street entertainment.

Far less complicated to sponsor programs and events than a long-standing building commitment, said Rae.

Among the issues considered by staff, and put forward to council, is the need to protect and grow the Whistler brand.

"Revenue does not justify sponsorship if there is a question of fit," said Rae.

There is also a recognition that sponsorship in the municipality's case could be tricky — Whistler is a limited marketplace and several resort stakeholders are already out there knocking on the same sponsorship doors. Stakeholders must be aware of each other's sponsorship sales strategy and plan.

Another point to consider is the need to preserve the guest experience. This is critical.

There were some reservations about the policy and its implications at the council table.

"I have been thinking about this one a lot," said Councillor Jack Crompton, who spoke to Whistler's natural beauty and surrounding.

He does not want to see a sponsorship deal potentially impact that.

"I do hope that we really err on the side of caution," he said.

The next steps are now to issue a Request For Proposals (RFP) and the municipality will then collaborate with resort stakeholders to optimize any benefits for the community.

McCarthy, while acknowledging Crompton's concerns, also highlighted the fact that there are not unlimited funds from which to draw money, pointing to recent concerns that the FE&A money may be in jeopardy from the province.

"Certainly the FE&A money looks like it may not be there going forward," he said of that uncertainty.

And that's another consideration in the grand scheme of thing.

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