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Post Stampede: The economic impact in Calgary after the 10 days

There’s a timeless cliché in Calgary that business gets done during Stampede.

While a 2019 review by the Conference Board of Canada showed that the Calgary Stampede has an estimated annual economic impact of more than $540 million (more than half of that during the 10 days of the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth), there’s a different side of that business that’s often overlooked.

The direct economic impact of hotel stays, restaurant and retail sales, wages circulating through the economy, and similar aspects are well documented.

What’s difficult to put a finger on is the actual non-Stampede-related transactions that are the result of connections made during the Calgary Stampede. You know, the printer sales, the advertising buys, the partnerships, or the fleet vehicle sales that happen weeks or months later. It comes in different forms: Corporate gatherings where vendors and clients meet, chats while volunteering at pancake breakfasts, or random collisions at Calgary Stampede events.

Michael Abraniuk, an IT professional from Leduc, Alta, said that he booked time to visit Calgary for the Stampede specifically to attend events hosted here during this time.  Abraniuk was on a whirlwind trip where he hit up a Dell conference, another for Logitech and another where LWC ran into him – the Ricoh Canada Stampede event at the King Eddy.

“I deal a lot with end-client devices, laptops, computers, monitors, mice, etcetera. During the Stampede, these events give me the chance to lay hands on the devices showcased at events,” he said.

“Stampede also gives me one-on-one time with product experts in a relaxed environment where it isn’t all about the sale and it’s more about the education of the product.”

Andrew Graham, VP of Commercial Sales for Ricoh Canada said they very much rely on the human element in business. That’s why the Calgary Stampede event is a big one, embedded in the company’s overall national marketing strategy.

“It’s very easy to do virtual calls anywhere, anyplace, anytime. We find that the Stampede events like this give our teams an ability to recognize our customers and thank them for the business,” he said.

The post-Covid need for connection

Graham said that now more than ever people are craving that personal connection in business. It’s especially important after the isolation of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Calgary Stampede is a great place for those conversations to take place, outside of the typical business day, he said.

The growth in attendees at this year’s Ricoh event signals that pent-up desire. Graham said last year they had 150 confirmed attendees. This year, it nearly doubled to 270. The event had food, drink, ping-pong, and axe throwing, along with live entertainment from Mariya Stokes.

“The workplace is no longer the office. We’re finding a lot of customers who work in the home office,” Graham said.

“This is an opportunity for them to get out and connect. That’s probably going to increase the importance of these types of venues and how we invest our marketing dollars to be able to connect with customers.”

Those connection points are a critical aspect of the Calgary Stampede – beyond the obvious economic impact, according to Brad Parry, President and CEO of Calgary Economic Development.

He said there’s a misconception that for a large number of Calgarians, and visitors from abroad, the Stampede is a 5 a.m. to 4 a.m. party. While there’s some of that, the result is often conversations that might not otherwise be had to further Calgary’s economic prospects.

“What’s really interesting to see these collisions of conversations that traditionally wouldn’t happen. You see some people talking to CEOs or CFOs, or salespeople and it’s not like it’s a contrived thing,” he said.

“You just happen to be next to somebody, you’re talking to someone else, business comes up, and then you start talking about ‘oh, I didn’t realize that.’ You see these combustion points start to happen.”

Calgary Stampede going beyond rodeo, chucks and the Midway

Parry said the one thing that’s struck him is the impact the Calgary Stampede is having beyond the traditional Western heritage and traditions of riding, roping and the fair.

It’s now brought in some of the top musical acts, massive sponsorships and is driving the area’s ongoing transformation.

“I think there are so many other things happening around the city that just keeps getting bigger and better and that’s exciting,” he said.

“(There’s) the economic spill-off that comes out of that; it’s not just the traditional people coming for just one thing, they’re coming for a whole bunch of stuff.”

To top it off, the BMO Centre’s expansion will usher in a new era of year-round economic impact from the Calgary Stampede grounds with large conferences – some already scheduled for 2024. The BMO expansion just crossed the halfway point in June.

In the end, it all comes down to creating opportunities for connection, said Graham.

“The common thread is the relationship,” he said.

“Whether you’re a government or your Fortune 5(00), you still deal with people and you still do business with us, and we want to recognize that. I think that’s a critical element.”