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Sponsorship Gone Wrong

canadianslargeI spent three days at Save-On-Foods Centre in Victoria last week taking in the Canadian Figure Skating Championships. It was a well organized and thoroughly enjoyable event. With one exception. The title sponsor, BMO Financial Group, was given too much freedom to brand the event as its own. As a marketer and conference organizer, I fully appreciate the need for sponsors. I also recognize the importance of offering value to sponsors. But, ultimately, the sponsor should be in service to the event, not the other way around.

So, where did BMO and Skate Canada go wrong?

  1. Embarrassing Contests. I’ve participated in and run many promotional contests and have rarely seen one executed with such crass as the BMO credit card contest. To participate in the contest, the crowd was asked to stand-up and dance around waving their personal BMO credit cards in the air. The winner, chosen by World Champions Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz, won a $250 credit on their BMO card. First, restricting a contest to BMO credit card holders is a bit gauche. Second, watching as people danced around waving credit cards was an absurd sight. In the time of foreclosures and credit defaults, the contest seemed especially awkward.
  2. Auxilary Awards. The BMO Possibility Awards were given out by BMO to athletes based on various criteria, including personal best performance. The pomp and circumstance that went into introducing and handing out these awards seemed to outweigh the medal ceremony that followed. Incidentally, an award of $500 towards training seems quite stingy coming from a national bank. Especially given the cost of training at an elite level.
  3. Too much profile. From stickers to thunder sticks to banners and contests, BMO was everywhere! BMO staff even took part in the medal ceremonies. I’m sure the skaters and audience would have rather seen ex-athletes (many of whom were in the building) present the medals and flowers.
  4. Aggressive advertising. It was hard to get from the front door to your seat without being asked to sign up for a BMO credit card.

There are many ways to offer value and promotion to sponsors in more subtle, but effective ways. For instance the event is called BMO Canadian Championships — a title sponsorship seems reasonable to me. Another way would be for BMO to print event programs where they could advertise more subtlety. That would have been a nice event souvenir that I certainly would have appreciated.

Next year at the Canadian Championships, I hope BMO and Skate Canada will show more class by choosing less aggressive promotional tactics.

One Response to “Sponsorship Gone Wrong”

  1. Karen Chisholm Says:

    We just got back from Moncton and attending the Canadian Figure Skating Championships.
    Can you tell me what happened with BMO, they are not the sponsor any longer.

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