RBC kicks in for snowboard team 

Canadian Snowboard Federation still seeking long-term corporate sponsorship

Canada has had a leg up in the world of competitive snowboarding as the sport has evolved. By the time snowboarding was included in the Olympics and the FIS started to run regular World Cup competitions, Canada already boasted a strong core of athletes, allowing us to be competitive with the rest of the world at every event.

Staying on top will be harder, as more countries and patriotic corporations start to support snowboarding and snowboarders, taking the sport from the fringe to the mainstream. European countries with strong alpine and freestyle programs are already actively identifying and training the next generation of Olympic snowboarders.

To stay in the game, the Canadian Snowboard Federation (CSF) knows it has to help foster the creation of a progression in Canada, and to increase funding for the sport and athletes if Canada wants to be as competitive in 10 years as we are today.

A large piece of the puzzle fell into place last week with the announcement that the RBC Financial Group had committed to a nine-year, $1.3 million sponsorship of the national team through 2012.

In addition to helping the athletes, part of the funding will go towards the development of a grassroots program to encourage the sport of snowboarding at the local and regional level.

"What we’re trying to do is to follow the path of other successful amateur sports in Canada by increasing the number of corporation sponsorships for teams and events," said Tom McIllfaterick, the CSF’s chief executive officer.

"We’re still a young organization in a lot of ways, so we’re doing this for the first time, and it’s taking a while to develop those partnerships," he added.

McIllfaterick says the challenge is finding corporate sponsors who are willing to commit to long-term support, rather than supporting the CSF during the Olympic cycle. What makes that difficult is the fact that the CSF is still figuring things out, and needs to create the types of programs that sponsors can get behind.

The team isn’t that hard to sell, he says. What’s difficult is ensuring that sponsors get some value for their investment.

"Our product is great," said McIllfaterick. "Snowboarding is probably the most exciting winter sport around, it’s in the Olympics, our athletes are on the podium, and millions of Canadians out there are doing it. Most of them are in that demographic group that sponsors are looking for.

"The challenge we have is making sure we deliver on the commitments we make to our sponsors," he said.

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