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Pat McEleney, Vice-President, Partnerships and Events, Canadian Tire.
MW: How has the landscape of sponsorship marketing changed since you started out?
PM: When I first started, sponsorship marketing was limited compared to today: it involved selling signage, 30 second ad spots, logo rights, and in-venue activations controlled by the properties. Then, there was a move to experiential marketing for fans, which extended beyond the arenas and stadiums. In the past five years, we have seen a further shift to an immersive connection with fans through digital and social content. At the end of the day, sponsorship marketing is all about connecting brands with fans in a meaningful way, however, and whenever, they are consuming content.
MW: What company or business do you admire the most?
PM: I am going to say Canadian Tire, because I have been so impressed, every day, since my arrival two-years ago. The Corporation has partnerships with major sport organizations – like the NHL teams and the Canadian Olympic Committee – supports both professional and amateur athletes, and underscores all of this by helping financially-disadvantaged kids get in the game through Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities. The portfolio of properties encompasses an entire spectrum of Canadians: from high performance athletes and their fans, to families and children. The values of the organization and sincere commitment to sport from “Playground to Podium” are second to none.
MW: What’s been the most satisfying moment in your professional career and why?
PM: I am very fortunate to have had many great moments in my career, but there are two in particular that stand out:
MW: What piece of advice would you give to young professionals starting out in sponsorship marketing?
PM: Relationships matter: never underestimate the power of connections and what they can do for your career. You should always be networking – not just when you need something – because relationship building is an ongoing journey and requires work every single day. Although you won’t necessarily know when you’re hard work will pay off, it will.
MW: If you could talk to one person from history, who would it be and why?
PM: Terry Fox. I can clearly recall watching him on the news as his following continued to grow, and his message of hope spread across Canada. I will never forget the day he came to Toronto and Darryl Sittler gave him his All-Star jersey at City Hall. I have been lucky to hear the story from Darryl firsthand, and know how fondly he remembers that special moment in his life. Terry was understated, proud, and driven, and truly embodied what it means to be Canadian. He continues to inspire our nation today, and I would love the chance to ask him how he had the strength to do what he did every day.
Yoeri Geerits, Senior Vice-President, Nielsen Canada
We got the opportunity to sit down with Yoeri Geerits, Senior Vice-President of Nielsen Canada. Read on to hear what this industry leader and SMCC Foundational Partner had to say about Canadian sponsorship and hear his advice for up and coming professionals.
How has the landscape of sponsorship marketing changed since you started out?
Canada is a unique landscape with a limited number of city hubs and a limited number of key rights holders, something I hadn’t really experienced until 2013 when I joined Repucom and the Canadian sponsorship landscape. Traditionally, the big rights holders like the NHL teams never really had to prove why they’re the best and brands have never had to question the rights holders. But over the years, I’ve noticed a considerable shift in the traditional sponsorship approach: both brands and rights holders are becoming more sophisticated and we’re seeing more accountability and ROI. This is a shift I can only applaud and will benefit the growth of the industry as a whole.
What are a couple of your all-time favourite sponsorship campaigns and why?
Sport Chek - There’s been a big shift in how they leverage their partnerships and I love the recent ways Sport Chek has integrated their partnerships into the overall marketing strategy. I also give huge kudos to Scotiabank on how they’ve built up their sponsorship team to maximize ROI and benefit their partnerships.
What company or business do you admire the most?
From a brand point of view, I’d have to say Red Bull. They’ve taken sports and entertainment to another level by realizing that rather than partnering with specific rights holders, teams or leagues, the best way to build their own profile was to build their own content. To be in control of your content is to have immense power over your messaging and they’ve gone over and above what we’ve seen in a long time. Red Bull continues to strike a chord with very relevant demographics that they complement with mainstream partnerships. What we can learn from them is that if you want to be successful, being in control over your rights and your message is critical.
I’m also a huge fan of the franchise that the Toronto Blue Jays have built and how they’ve monetized their past few seasons. The Jays have shown that it’s critical to be ready for success. It has helped them to be strong during the less successful years as a team, and it has elevated their commercial success when the team becomes highly competitive.
What’s been the most satisfying moment in your professional career and why?
My most satisfying professional moment was when I was Head of Sponsorships at ING and sat at the table negotiating a global deal and a massive partnership with Formula One. Not only am I proud that we got it signed, but I’m proud of the process we implemented: every decision we made had research to back it up; every campaign we ran was tested in focus groups. It was fascinating to see how easy it can be to make decisions based on intelligence and research and the results you get when you take assumptions out of the equation. Research really is the gift that keeps on giving.
What piece of advice would you give to young professionals starting out in sponsorship marketing?
To all the young sponsorship professionals, I would say don’t get stuck in one specific role. Being exposed to all sides of the business is critical to your success. Get experience on the brand side, sales side, with the rights holder and in the middle as a consultant or agency; get a 360 degree view of the industry. You’re in a world now where sponsorship is being redefined and you need to have an understanding of how everything fits within that.
Yoeri, what’s at the top of your bucket list?
Personally, I want to be able to fly! It would be incredible to have the ability to move in three dimensions. Professionally, at the top of my bucket list is a dream to work for a very large international federation, for example FIFA or FormulaOne or any one of the biggest properties and get a sense of what it’s like to be at the top of an organization with so much reach.