Advertising limited in Whistler during Games 

RMOW aims to keep non-commercial feel of mountain resort

Olympic advertisers will be out in full force during the 2010 Winter Olympics, delivering their messages to a captive audience in Vancouver. But not so in Whistler.

Corporations like McDonald's, Visa and Coca-Cola hoping to reach mass consumer markets as hundreds of thousands of spectators travel to and from Olympic and Paralympic events won't have much opportunity to advertise in Whistler.

And it's not as though they don't want to.

Advertising opportunities for Olympic sponsors, said organizers, would likely be well received in Whistler.

Unlike the city, however, the resort municipality prohibits billboards, video signs and building wraps in its boundaries and it isn't keen on extensive transit advertising either.

Though B.C. Transit has confirmed that Olympic organizers retain the rights for advertising on the outside of the buses, as yet there are no plans to do so in respect of Whistler's current practices.

"We are deferring to the RMOW and simply complying to existing community standards," said Bill Cooper, director of commercial rights for the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Games (VANOC).

It will make for a much different Olympic experience here compared to the city.

"It merges fantastically with the Olympic ideal, that while at the Games, it's really about the sport," said Cooper. "And to that extent, I think the Olympic experience up in Whistler is going to be a really pure Olympic experience.

"They're two very different environments. It seems a relatively natural progression - the alpine versus the urban Olympic experience."

Whistler keeps a tight lid on commercial advertising on purpose.

"We've got a beautifully designed village and we're regulated so that you enjoy the mountain feeling of the village," said Sandra Smith, bylaw supervisor with the Resort Municipality of Whistler. "You're not bombarded with marketing images."

In addition to what Smith calls a "comprehensive" sign plan in the village, the RMOW does not allow corporate advertising billboards within its boundaries.

It will be not be varying its sign bylaw significantly for the Games, though there may be more way-finding signs and traffic regulation signs for the time period.

"I think the intention... is we want Whistler to look like Whistler," said Smith.

Whistler's commercial advertising strategy has been getting stricter over the years.

Two years ago, the municipality did not renew its contract with Pattison Outdoor Advertising for transit shelter advertising.

Though the advertising had been in the resort for years, it was, according to staff, in contravention of Whistler's sign bylaw.

That shelter advertising, though miniscule, was part of the $40 million outdoor or out-of-home (OOH) ad space VANOC was required to buy for the Games. That space stretched from Hope to the coast, and from the U.S. border in the south to Whistler in the north. It included extensive advertising on Translink, including space on buses, in stations and on platforms, and even the ability to wrap vehicles in Olympic livery or advertisements.


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