Norton Rose gets Pan Am fever with athlete sponsorships

Lawyers and staff at the offices of Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP were watching the Pan Am Games a little more closely Monday as Adam van Koeverden crossed the finish line to a bronze medal in the men’s K1 1000 metre kayak race in Welland.

The Olympic gold medalist is one of several Canadian Pan Am Games athletes sponsored by the law firm and providing much needed support, says van Koeverden, adding such sponsorships can beneficial for both parties.

“It’s an example of one of the small ways the private sector can get involved and make a big impact on Canadian amateur athletics,” van Koeverden tells Legal Feeds. “I’m a really strong believer that sponsoring a Canadian athlete shouldn’t be philanthropic. A good sponsorship strategy from a company, law firm, or bank can provide significant value on both sides.”

Norton Rose is supporting Canadian Pan Am athletes at the games in cycling, kayak, mountain bike, squash, and waterskiing.

One of the firm’s senior litigation partners, Michael Tamblyn, drove the sponsorship push and knows several Pan Am athletes.

The firm’s chief operating officer says he doesn’t see the support as “charity” but a way for the firm to boost interest in the games and create a relationship that also benefits their organization.

“It makes our people feel good about the support we’re giving to the community and helping these athletes who are so dedicated to these sports,” says Chris Jackson, COO at Norton Rose Canada.

Van Koeverden spoke to senior managers of the firm in Montreal recently and they held an event with several of the athletes in the Toronto office. He says it’s the first time he’s had sponsorship from a law firm.

Training for events like the Pan Am Games takes full-time dedication, says van Koeverden and while many consider the athletes of the Pan Am Games “amateur” he says there is nothing part-time about training for such an elite level of sport.

“Every sport has to be professional now, you can’t have a full-time job and do the kind of training any sport requires you to do at the Olympic level,” he says.

Corporate sponsors also help with distribution of event tickets to their clients for business development and ensure the games are well attended, which is also important to the success of the games.

“It’s critical,” says van Koeverden. “I don’t think you’d ever sell the number of tickets available just to families or couples. It’s important companies get behind it and encourage their people to go for a variety of reasons.”

Kyle Douglas of the Scott-3 Rox Racing, a North American male-female cross country mountain bike race team says the sponsorship helps with not only making sure they are “one of the top teams in Canada” but pushes them to an international platform.

Douglas says while there has been much grousing about the impact the games have had on traffic in the GTA, it’s important to see the bigger picture.

“It really makes us an elite sporting community where before Toronto and the GTA was not an elite community. Now we have all these facilities where athletes can train and there’s a legacy because of it,” he says. “The short-term pain is for some long-term gain.”

The team’s Derek Zandstra of Trenton, Ont., finished fourth Sunday in the men’s cross-country mountain bike event at the Hardwood Mountain Bike Park in Oro-Medonte.

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