Traditionally, national curling events were operated by host committees and directed by national sponsors. While there were years when lack of sponsorship forced Curling Canada and/or the Canadian Ladies Curling Association to operate some events with host committees, Curling Canada had little involvement with the operation of the Brier until the advent of Labatt sponsorship in 1980.
The Labatt sponsorship, followed shortly thereafter by Scott Paper with the Canadian women’s championship, provided a new level of professionalism to the operations of national championships that took curling into the world of entertainment.
During the 1980s, Curling Canada slowly but surely became more involved with its major events. So did Labatt. In 1994, the last year of its old sponsorship model, the brewer was contributing significantly toward the operation of the Brier which included installing a number of professionals in areas such as media, photography, daily newspapers and entertainment.
The new rights holder, the St. Clair Group, recognized the need to maintain high on-site visibility for the media and television and continued to contract some of the key people that Labatt had retained in these areas. The committee budget began to carry the cost of other key people from the Labatt era in areas like media operation and Brier Patch management.
Despite drastic change, the Halifax Brier in 1995 managed to show a profit but it was a struggle with ticket sales and sponsorship.
In 1996, the Brier went to Kamloops and the new 6,000-seat Riverside Coliseum sold out in weekly tickets nearly a year in advance. Local sponsors lined up to get on board and the event turned a solid profit.
It was in 1997, however, that the Brier hit the big time when it was staged at Calgary’s Saddledome, a facility with a seating capacity at the time surpassing 19,000. Event operations were still totally handled by a volunteer work force with tickets sold only on a weekly basis through the Brier office until just a few short weeks before the event.
In the end, the Brier set an attendance record of 223,322. But it did not set a record in terms of profit —the process of marketing high-level sponsorships by a volunteer work force combined with selling tickets was a significant workload that required professional management.
It was only a few weeks later that the committee in Winnipeg slated to host the 1998 Brier as a volunteer work force, concluded that it had neither the time or expertise required to market sponsorships at a level of close to $1million and ticket sales of more the $2 million. Hence the Alliance Marketing Group was contracted by the committee to take over sponsorship sales and ticket marketing.
The stage was set in 1999 to introduce the fundamentals of an event-management model where, for the first time in history, it would be Curling Canada that assumed the financial responsibility for the event’s bottom-line. It also marked the first time that a group contracted by Curling Canada would assume the responsibility of local sponsorship sales and ticket marketing. The 1999 Edmonton Brier was a huge success and management of the Brier moved forward over the next few years.
The Scott Tournament of Hearts continued to operate under the old system but, in 2001, it became difficult for volunteer committees to assume the responsibility of raising hundreds of thousands of dollars through the sale of sponsorships and tickets if the event was to reach a bottom-line in the black. The 2002 Scott in Brandon was the first event staged under the event-management system.
Finally, in 2003, a further enhancement to the model was implemented in the form of an expenditure control system that is managed and operated by Curling Canada’s national office in Ottawa.
The model continues to be monitored and assessed and, in 2005, it was felt that the volunteer labour involved with these events needed to be acknowledged, even if the event was not financially successful. Now Curling Canada not only underwrites all event costs to eliminate the financial risk of the local organizing committee but also guarantees a financial legacy to all host committees of event-managed properties.
The event management model has certainly been successful by taking all of Curling Canada and WCF properties, hosted in Canada, to a new level.
Today, the properties within the Event Management Model include:
- Tim Hortons Brier
- Scotties Tournament of Hearts
- Tim Hortons Canadian Curling Trials
- World Financial Group Continental Cup of Curling
- Canada Cup of Curling
- Ford World Men’s and Women’s Curling Championships (when held in Canada)
The underlying principles of the event management model are:
- to enhance the quality, consistency, profile and profitability of event-managed properties.
- to utilize professionals from respective key operational areas who combine their professional expertise and accumulated curling championship experience to direct volunteer implementation of each event.
- to make the volunteer experience as enjoyable as possible by providing an enhanced recognition program and opportunity for local input during planning while removing the burden from the host committee of the financial pressures associated with the bottom line.
The management system also has allowed the “brand” of each event to be built and developed through the consistency offered by having the same people perform the main tasks, event after event. It is easy to distinguish the “Brier Brand” or “Scotties Brand” today compared to other curling events and sporting activities. This consistency helps in the development of loyal fans and followers who learn to expect similarities from year to year in the major properties. Each volunteer committee however, is still able to apply its local touch, flavor and culture to each event which Curling Canada feels is fundamental to the success of these championships.