June 24, 2008

WCF appoints marketing partner

In the greater scheme of things for most curlers, today's announcement by the World Curling Federation (here) probably won't have much significance. But I found it very interesting! And it could have far reaching consequencies. Curling's world governing body has linked up with Infront Sports & Media to be the 'Official Marketing Partner of the World Curling Federation'. Way back in December (here) Curling Today indicated that this was in the offing.

Infront is based in Zug, Switzerland. It is a private organisation with over 400 employees and offices in eleven countries: Switzerland, Austria, Finland, Germany, Italy, Norway, Sweden, France, South Africa, Singapore and China. You will note that there is no presence in Canada, nor indeed the UK.

So what role will Infront play within the sport? Attracting sponsorship and maximising income is the key role. For example, Infront will market packages for sponsors, utilising exposure opportunities such as in-ice advertising, or stadium and venue advertising and combining these with official sponsorship status and designations, and the use of marks, hospitality and promotional opportunities.

The main events included in the contract are the Men's and Women's World Curling Championships and the European Curling Championships. We can take it from this that there has been co-operation with the European Curling Federation in working towards this agreement.

The contract is for three years in the first instance. That of course covers the Aberdeen European Championships. Other events such as the Juniors, Seniors, Mixed Doubles and the European Mixed are also covered by the agreement and it will be interesting to see if Infront has plans to raise the profile of these competitions. Also how the WCF agents can work alongside the local organising committees in attracting and sharing benefit from the sponsorship that is attracted.

Infront's role covers the exploitation of all media and marketing rights worldwide. Of course, there are existing agreements, and the press release notes that these are 'being reviewed with the partners concerned'.

The WCF has an existing contract with the Canadian Curling Association, which has been the Canadian marketing representative for many years, and of course currently delivers title sponsor Ford of Canada for World events in that country. The current contract was renewed last year for a two-year term. Also in Canada, TSN remains the official WCF broadcast partner in an agreement that is in place until 2014.

The production of the television feed for worldwide distribution will continue to be handled by the WCF, through its own WCTV.

The full text of the press release contains quotes from WCF President Les Harrison, and Infront President and CEO Philippe Blatter. In addition Bruno Marty, Executive Director Winter Sports, who will be responsible for the operational aspects of the new relationship, says, "We are looking forward to working with the World Curling Federation to give curling a strong base for future expansion. The sport has a lot to offer to both commercial and broadcast partners and it is our aim to unlock its full potential."

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