the Canadian Mount Everest Expedition first started to take shape late in 1977, members
were not unaware of their role as complete neophytes in the major league world of
Himalayan mountain climbing. When they left five years later to tackle the Everest, it was
as one of the best prepared, best financed, and best supported of any to attempt the
Much of this was due
to the collective efforts of expedition business manager John Amatt and the support of
dozens of Canadian companies, big and small. In particular, says Amatt, it was due to
the sponsorship of Air Canada.
made a major commitment to the climb back when we really needed it, he says. Not
only did this give us the cash we had to have, but also made possible a series of high
altitude training climbs around the world. And with Air Canada as an example, we were able
to attract the support of many other companies to make the climb possible.
sponsorship was received with mixed reactions in the Canadian business community. In
business terms, backing a venture that entailed such a high degree of risk and that
revolved around a sport virtually unknown across the country was considered innovative by
manyand foolish by some.
were pretty sure of what we were doing, explains advertising director Mike Breckon.
We completed an extensive public survey and found that the interest really was
there. We also had one of the worlds
most experienced expedition leaders review the teams chances and his answer was
positive. Finally, we were satisfied that
association with such a daring and completely Canadian endeavour was exactly the kind of
promotion we were looking for
Air Canada, insiders
say, was suffering a malady that goes along with being a crown corporation. Despite major
improvements and a solid business record among the leading airlines of the world, it was
silt perceived as being grey, unimaginative and dull. Seeking a major corporate
promotion to counter this, the airlines executive management found common ground in
the challenge, the integrity, the team spirit and the courage inherent in the attempt on
Although the Everest
climb offered all the right ingredients and although Air Canadas contribution
sparked widespread appreciation association with the climbers was not without its
perils, The sponsorship expenditure came under unusually severe scrutiny in a
deteriorating economic environment; the expedition supporters within the airline were
stunned when, immediately after Skreslets summit success, they were subjected to a
tirade of criticism stemming from employee layoffs.
Breckon, If wed been offered the sponsorship two years later we might have
turned it down, strictly for financial reasons. We re-examined our commitment six months
before the climb took place, but by that time we felt we were obligated. If we had pulled out, it is doubtful if the
expedition would have ever left Canada and by this time many more Canadian companies were
criticism became vitriolic in some sectors, the airlines decision to stick with the
climbers was ultimately endorsed by the people of Canada. An extensive sampling of
opinions coast-to-coast after the teams return revealed that 94% of the general
public had been aware of the event, 79% had followed it closely and 52% were aware of Air
Canadas sponsorship. The final clincher was the response to a fourth question which
revealed that 68% had considered Air Canadas sponsorship as being appropriate.
Together with other
research we conducted, this indicated that we had achieved the objective of helping to
present a new image of Air Canada to the public, says Breckon. It showed that the
climb was right for us to sponsor.
And it showed a
large part of the Canadian business community that an innovative sponsorship could have
high rewards. And that, says one Toronto management consultant, is almost as good news as
the summit success of the climbers themselves.