Festival rises in stature with MasterCard sign-on Credit card corp. to take $2.5 million title sponsorship By Chris Woodall MasterCard has signed on as the World Ski and Snowboard Festival's title sponsor, adding a lustre to the 10-day extravaganza of winter sporting competitions, April 10-19. "This really shows the stature the festival is attracting in North America," says Doug Perry, festival chairman. The run-up to the third year of the festival will see MasterCard use the event to reach skiers and snowboarders in an affinity campaign. A mailout project in the next month will go out to millions of people around Canada and the United States, putting the MasterCard name on invitations to come see the festival in Whistler, Perry explains. "It's a promotional partnership worth $2.5 million," Perry says, and part of an over-all series of sponsorships with others — such as beer company Labatt (Kokanee) and tobacconist Canadian Classics/Rothmans — worth $6 million. "This shows the festival has arrived," Perry says of the 2,000 athlete, 25-event sports party. Perry wants to make it clear that while Labatt ($2.5 million investment) is involved with sports events in the festival, Canadian Classics ($250,000) is concentrating its sponsorship on the entertainment side of the festival. Speaking of entertainment, this year's festival will have a muchly-energized fun side. "We've developed a major entertainment component with many more live music acts during the 10 days of the festival," Perry says. The Kokanee Rock 'N Ride parties will be larger, featuring live music yet to be signed (wait 'til February), with an equally pumped DJ scene with spin doctors coming from New York and Los Angeles. MasterCard's presence will be seen throughout the resort, while event sponsors will wave their flags during their particular activity. On tap for this year's festival is a Greg Stump tribute to recognize the 10th year since the extreme ski and snowboard filmmaker created "Blizzard of Ahhs." One of the wackiest events will be the first doggie parade through town. About 300 canines, some dressed to the nines, will show their stuff, Perry says. Cornerstone events include the Kokanee boardercross championships, the Westbeach classic big air and halfpipe jam (part of the Snowboard Canada Jam Tour), Kokanee Couloir Extreme race, Air Canada Whistler Cup international juvenile races, International free skiing challenge, and the Podborski DV8 for Easter Seals snow blade competition. Party time in party town will see the Whistler Town Party at the conference centre, Moving Pictures Canadian Film Festival featuring the world premiere of Bike Magazine's "Cranked", and a professional photographers showdown. As if those weren't enough to keep you busy, there's the B.C. Freestyle Championships, World Bigfoot Championships, Solomon XScream industry five-day party to launch Solomon's new all-terrain ski ($800 a pair), a mountain bike big air contest, Atomic powder-8 competition, the Savage Beagle Cup, the Lifty Olympics, and something called the Whistler Martini Contest. The whole shebang finishes off with the Dummy Downhill, an event familiar to anyone who's seen the Warren Miller film of a similar scatter-brained event.