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Calgary Stampede and WestJet renew sponsorship for a further five years

The Calgary Stampede, for the first time in its history, has an official airline.

WestJet and the Stampede announced on June 8, that the WestJet Group would be continuing its long-standing two-decade partnership with the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth for an additional five years.

Among the changes between previous deals and the new one announced on Thursday was a move up to the top tier of sponsors at the Calgary Stampede, which include brands such as Coca Cola, Budweiser, Cowboys, Suncor, and GMC.

“The Stampede is a key sponsorship for WestJet. We are a company that was brought up in Calgary,” said Alexis von Hoensbroech, CEO for the WestJet Group.

WestJet will continue to be the title sponsor for the Stampede Park chair lift, more formally known as the WestJet Skyride. They will also be sponsoring the bull riding rodeo events, and continuing their promotional plan of giving away prizes to Stampede visitors—including the possibility of free flights.

“This is a 20-year-old partnership, and it really is a great alignment between two iconic Calgary brands that have a commitment to the community,” said Joel Cowley, CEO of the Calgary Stampede.

“There’s a strategical as well… making sure that international visitors, and those from within Canada, have access to Calgary—easy access to Calgary—helps us generate that annual economic impact that Calgary has come to rely upon.”

Cowley said that strategic alignment has become even more important to the Stampede, given the opening of their new Tier 1 convention centre in 2024.

“Having the Calgary airport here and WestJet increasingly adding direct flights from around the globe. That will be really, really important as we continue to grow the convention business and generate economic impact year-round within the City of Calgary,” Cowley said.

Confidence in Calgary

Hoensbroech said that the continuation of another half-decade of sponsorship, and the potential for another half-decade after that, reflected the confidence that WestJet has in the city.

“We, of course, looked at the market outlook for Calgary, as we were forming our strategy, or re-forming our strategy a year ago,” he said.

“The fact that category is the fastest growing big city in Canada, and Calgary is dramatically investing into expanding its convention capacities, we’re two strong reasons that gave us the confidence that this city and the demands of the city will provide all the growth potential that we are looking for.”

While there are many people concerned about a potential recession, that hasn’t translated into the number of flights that WestJet is booking, Hoensbroech said.

“Right now we see that specifically private travellers are actually very keen to travel, and booking dynamics is very strong,” he said.

“Therefore, at this midterm, we are pretty bullish in terms of how the demand looks like. Of course, I don’t have a crystal ball to know what’s going to happen next year, but fundamentally, I think this is a place that has a great future.”

Cowley said that the prospects for the Stampede in July receiving out-of-town visitors were strong.

“I think this year we will see a return of the international visitor, and we point to that with the evidence from the Calgary hotels association,” he said.

“According to the latest data we saw, there will be a large influx of international visitors at the 2023 Calgary Stampede.”

As for the outlook for the 10 days, Cowley wouldn’t project any specific numbers, only saying that they were on track in terms of pre-ticket purchases to match 2019.

“This year, we see consumers returning to their pre-pandemic purchasing pattern… and so good weather allowing, we think we’re gonna have a fantastic 2023 Calgary Stampede,” he said.

The Stampede begins in less than 30 days, starting on July 7.