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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Nothing Personal, it's Just Business.

Team Fournier Update

Team Horses (which sounds way better than Team Fournier) had a pretty great year. With the exception of our last game, a tough-to-swallow defeat at the hands of Martin Crete, it was a good season. We won about 14K, finished the year ranked 34th in the World (and tops in Quebec!). More importantly, we played well. We got to play more games against the top teams in the world, and even beat some of them.

The good news is that we will be back for next season. And we will be looking to continue climbing the world rankings and play in better and better events. And we want to get back to the Brier. And we now find ourselves within spitting distance of a place in the Olympic pre-trials, which are but a few short years away.

I like this team a lot. Felix is getting better and smarter every year, and Will and JF have taken their sweeping to a new level. But perhaps more importantly, everybody looks to be having fun, both on the ice and off. Increasingly we see the teams around us treating curling as if it was their day job; joylessly throwing and sweeping with painfully few visible signs of enjoyment. I like to think we look like we enjoy what we are doing (and we are!).  Amazingly, we also seem to play better when we are having fun.

So how much will we play? Unfortunately, my lottery tickets have yet to convert, so I do need to keep my day job of figuring out how much your next Big Mac should cost. So that means we will play as aggressive a schedule as possible while holding down our lives. This means we will not be playing in the Slams (unless we somehow squeak out an invitation to one later in the season).
It also means we are looking for sponsorship.

Curling Sponsorship in Canada

For the top handful of teams in Canada, being a pro curler is now an option thanks to sponsorship. 
Curling used to be very quaint in that you would watch the top teams at the Brier, and they would actually show you their profession: mailman, dentist, beer store manager, whatever. These days are gone. The top few teams in the country are now professional curlers. 

How does this work? The top few teams now have sports agents, and reasonably lucrative deals with some big sponsors. And if your team is regularly in the Slams and Sportsnet, then there is clearly a benefit for a company to pay some big $$$ for some TV visibility. The top teams will spend somewhere around 100K-200K per season, which is mostly spent on travel costs. So how do they pay for this?

The top few teams will receive hundreds of thousands in sponsorship money to offset the travel costs (and pay a few bills at home), as companies like Pinty’s, Kubota, Northern Credit Trust, Princess Auto and WFG are willing to pay to get brand exposure at the Slams. The top teams also are receiving funding from the National and Provincial governments through their Elite/Olympic Athlete programs. And of course the top teams win money. The top teams on tour are winning anywhere from 100-200K per season. Elite curling in Canada has become big business. 

Knowing this helps you put into context the recent player moves you have seen on tour, like Savill being replaced by Fry. The moves go beyond friendship, and highlight the business-like approach the top teams have to take to maintain their spot and chase down the Olympics. The money is what gives them the chance to pursue curling full time, and the money only comes if you are winning. There is only room for a handful of teams to receive the kind of money that allows them to curl full time, so the pressure is on to stay in that elite few. Anything they can do to be better, they will do.

But for a Tier-2 team like ours sponsorship is a tougher ask.  The pinnacle of our TV exposure would be the Brier, where your season-long sponsor logo cannot even be displayed on your jackets, as visibility at National-level events are owned by the companies that pay for these events. “Visibility” for our team means you get to see your company logo displayed on our jackets around the Clubs and Arenas where we will play our games throughout the season. Yes, this can still be interesting for a company and has some value – but obviously not as interesting as the Slam Teams that play on TV almost every second week.
A curling season will typically cost us 20-30K in travel, equipment and entry fees. As I mentioned last year we won about half of that in prize money, so the remainder has to be paid for by us, with some help from our sponsors. We are very much amateurs, playing the game without any sort of financial reward.

We do have some sponsorship that allows us to do what we do, for which we are very grateful:

  • Of course we benefit from our long-time relationship with Hardline Curling, who are now the Titleist of the curling world with virtually all of the big teams using their product. They have been a big part of our success.
  • If you are looking for curling jackets like the cool ones we have, Dynasty Curling makes awesome on and off-ice gear. Love their stuff.
  • And big thanks to our other sponsors:  Cedar Springs Landscaping (514-453-4662), Assurances Leclerc, and Injection Classique foundation repair. If you are looking for landscaping or snow removal in the West Island, if you need home or auto insurance or if your foundation has cracks – please use our sponsors and mention Team Fournier!  The links above take you directly to their websites.
But our reality (and the reality of most Tier 2 teams), is that most sponsorship dollars typically come from friends looking to help us out as opposed to businesses looking for visibility for their brand.

So if you are able to help out Team Horses – and get a little visibility for your brand and the joy of supporting a team still chasing the dream – then please reach out to any of us on the team! Competitive Curling is an expensive endeavor, and every little bit helps.