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Supporting the Niagara Region and having a significant presence at various events is very important to us. We continue to work hard to be involved in the community not only during the season but also throughout the offseason.

Cori Burke

Director of Corporate Sponsorships

Niagara IceDogs Hockey Club

× The interview with Cori Burke was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.

1Tell us about your role as the Director of Corporate Sponsorships for the Niagara IceDogs Hockey Club. What does a typical day look like for you?

What I love most about my job, is that no two days are the same.

Our office is open Monday to Friday from 9-5pm. Currently, due to COVID, we are not open to the public and are open by appointment only.

My mornings normally consist of responding to all emails and doing follow up emails.

Every 2 weeks I have a conference call with the OHL and all team personnel that are in marketing and sponsorship roles to discuss current events and it acts as a brainstorming session between teams. It has been very useful throughout COVID, as we have discussed topics such as selling on capacity %, ticketing recommendations, pricing strategies, sponsorship renewal approaches, new revenue streams, COVID protocols, etc.

I also take some time during the day to check other OHL teams' social media platforms to make sure I am up-to-date on any news around the league. It is also a great way to get new sponsorship ideas, as you can take a lot away by checking what other teams are doing around the league, as well as NHL teams.

I try to leave some time each day to ‘cold call’ prospects for potential sponsors and build my funnel.

I take a look at the Chamber of Commerce business directories that are available online for each region in Niagara. I do research on new businesses and will reach out to them whether that’s via email or by phone. Sometimes I will drop off a Congratulations card to the new business with a business card. These nice gestures can go a long way when they are considering where to spend their advertising dollars.

Another great way to research potential sponsors is by looking at newspapers, magazines, flyers you receive in the mail, billboards around town or advertisements on the internet. Take a look at who is spending money and where, then see if you can provide them with a partnership plan that will provide them with brand awareness that will benefit their business.

I will usually put together a short and sweet email that is captivating to them, showing I have researched their business and know what is important to them. I will give a short summary of our upcoming season and the excitement around the team. I provide just the right amount of information, leaving them wanting to learn more about a potential partnership with the Niagara IceDogs.

My day looks slightly different during the season vs. off-season.

During the season (pre-COVID), I still cold call regularly, as I still get businesses signing up to be sponsors at all times throughout the season. It is very important to continue to reach out to businesses and build those relationships with prospective sponsors.

 A lot of work goes into ensuring the partnerships come to life during the season and maintaining the relationships and the respect from the sponsors. The season goes by very fast, so keeping in constant communication with sponsors is important in making sure they are happy with how the partnership is playing out throughout the season.

My duties during the season include ensuring signage is installed correctly, organizing game day sponsorships for the partners, working with the IceDogs Game Day Manager to ensure all partners in-game promotions and activations are properly run, making changes as needed, and staying in constant contact with partners.

I typically start the week off by looking at the upcoming games for the next week or two. We have a game day board shared file, that includes details on each home game of our season: game day sponsor, anthem singer, puck drop, intermission activities, pre-game skates, donation drives, groups,  and concourse tables.

Our game day board is beneficial for keeping all staff on the same page and organized. There are never any surprises, as it is all outlined on the game day board. Based on who is the game day sponsor for the upcoming games, I will collect all of the assets I need for those games a few days prior to the home game, so we can get organized (scripting, logos, intermission activity details, concourse table details, giveaways, etc.).

During our home games, I am visiting with partners on the concourse, as well as ensuring all promotions and activations are executing as per agreement. 

IceDogs off-season is actually my busy time. I begin sponsorship renewals in late March or early April, and this keeps me busy throughout the summer. This year is a bit different due to COVID, as I did not begin renewals until late August, once we had our return to play date.

In Niagara, we are very fortunate to have such great support from the local businesses and we have a very good renewal rate. Businesses want to be part of the excitement that the IceDogs bring to the community.

2Tell us about how your role has changed since the pandemic. Do you have to approach companies differently now and how has the communication between existing sponsors been altered?

My role has remained the same, however, I have had to adapt to new ways of doing my job.

Normally I would go to the sponsors' business to do renewals or sales meetings, and due to COVID, the majority of my renewals and sales calls have been done over email or phone.

I have to be sensitive when approaching companies, as it is been a very difficult time for many businesses in our community.

During the summer months, we were using our social media platforms to promote our partners on whether they were open/closed, and if they had any special offers or messaging they wanted us to share with others.

During these difficult times, it has become more clear than ever how important it is to support your community and do all you can to help everyone get through this together.

Our sponsors and season ticket holders are the absolute lifeblood of this organization, so we wanted to show our support and appreciation to these businesses.

We are currently waiting on updates from the Government and Health officials, on what our season will look like, how many fans we will be allowed in the arena, and other details surrounding the season.

As we wait for answers, we try to keep our partners and season ticket holders updated as much as possible. Keeping them in the loop will only strengthen the relationship and shows we truly care about them.

We still want to provide the same value to our partners as previous seasons, but their packages may look a little different this season.

Typically our most popular assets are in-game activations and promotions, but due to COVID we will most likely not be allowed to do any in-stand giveaways or intermission activities, so we’ve been seeing a huge shift towards digital advertising. I have been working with my coworker who manages Social Media to develop digital assets that we can sell.

3What is your strategy when looking for new sponsors? How do you support local and diverse communities around St. Catharines?

The Niagara IceDogs represent the entire Niagara Region. Although we play out of downtown St. Catharines, we are Niagara’s team. The IceDogs strive to be a positive and active member of our community.

Each season the players visit numerous schools across Niagara to talk with students about the importance of education, teamwork and a healthy lifestyle. As well as we host community skates throughout the region at local community rinks, where fans and families are invited to watch the IceDogs practice and then join them on ice for a family skate.

In addition, our exhibition games are hosted at different community rinks each season, with all revenue from the ticket sales supporting the local minor hockey team.

Supporting the Niagara Region and having a significant presence at various events is very important to us. We continue to work hard to be involved in the community not only during the season but also throughout the offseason.

When looking for new sponsors, I take a look at what businesses are spending money and where. I am always looking through newspapers, flyers that you get in the mail, billboards, online advertising, magazines, etc. I find a number of potential partners by taking the time to look at other forms of advertisements.

I am a member of our Chamber of Commerce and it has monthly networking events that businesses can attend. I have met many members of the community by going to these events, as well as many sponsors have come from these networking events.

I am constantly building relationships with businesses across the Region, as you never know when they may be interested in partnering with the Niagara IceDogs.

4Since many initiatives have moved online, and you have a background in social media management, what social media skills do you think will be particularly important during the pandemic?

Creativity has been particularly important to us during the pandemic, as you need to differentiate yourself from other brands in the social media space. If you want to create content that is exciting, valuable and buzz-worthy, you need creativity to come up with ideas that stand out.

I work closely with the IceDogs Social Media Manager, Jordyn Moussa, to incorporate sponsored assets into our daily content, and now more than ever we are trying to develop innovative, social campaigns that we can sell to sponsors for this upcoming season.

We’ve spent a lot of time creating visually appealing, multimedia content for our social platforms, building our reputation and brand, in hopes that sponsors see that we have a well-developed platform that they would like to spend their marketing dollars on.

This season we will definitely see a shift towards the majority of our sponsored assets being digital on our social media and website. We have to be creative and connect our partners with fans in new ways.

5List your top 5 career highlights and share with us your advice for someone who wants to have a career in corporate sponsorship in sport.

My advice for someone that wants to have a career in corporate sponsorship in sport, would be to get your foot in the door as soon as you can and get experience, whether it be through interning or volunteering. Many of my coworkers at the IceDogs started as interns and then were offered full-time positions.

Additionally, I would say networking with those in the sports industry is also very important, as you never know what opportunity could come about. It allows you access to opportunities you might not be able to find on your own. You will gather great insight into what potential employers look for and advice on how you can improve professionally. Networking is essential for your career.

 Top 5 career highlights include:

  • Winning the 2016 Eastern Conference Championship was incredible to witness and experience the excitement in the arena.
  • Hosting the first CHL Pride Game in 2016
  • Organizing and hosting the OHL League Meetings in Niagara in 2018
  • Organizing Country Night and pre-game tailgate in 2017
  • Closing your first deal is always a memorable highlight that sticks with you forever

Emma Greer Emma's Final Thoughts

Connect With Cori Burke



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