RBC picks up the pace of ‘Training Ground’

The bank's annual effort to find the next generation of Olympians ramps up ahead of this year's summer games.

Supporting youth is a common thread in much of RBC’s marketing, including “Training Ground,” a national program to find, fund and support young athletes looking to become future Canadian Olympians.

“Training Ground is really one proof point in our support of the Olympics and the Olympic movement, what it stands for and being able to really support amateur athletes at every stage of their journey,” says Shannon Cole, RBC’s senior director of brand marketing. “So now, not only are we supporting athletes when they’re already Olympians, but we’re also helping identify and support them earlier in that career journey.”

The fifth edition edition of “RBC Training Ground” this year comes ahead of the 2020 summer games in Tokyo. As with past Olympic years, the program will be a factor in RBC’s sponsorship and marketing efforts for the games, and while Cole could not divulge too many details about its plans, she says the games will symbolize a culmination of the past five years of “RBC Training Ground.”

“We’re poised at this point to have at least a couple of our athletes who we have helped find and support…represent Canada on the Olympic stage,” she says.

As part of this year’s talent search, RBC will be holding events on university campuses in eight provinces where their skills will be tested in front of national sports organizations and the Canadian Olympic Paralympic Sport Institute Network (Ski Jumping Canada, Nordic Combined Ski Canada and Boxing Canada will be part of the program this year, joining organizations representing sports like skating, cycling and rugby Canada). A national final in Winnipeg will bring together “the top 100 high potential athletes” from across Canada to compete for funding and a place on one of nine partner sport organizations’ teams. Roughly 30 high-performing athletes will be chosen as RBC Future Olympians to receive funding, mentorship and other resources to proceed to chase their Olympic dreams.

There have been some changes to the way in which RBC has marketed this year’s Training Ground events, Cole notes, expanding how it is activating on campus. She says these campuses are “not only home to significant athlete talent pool, they are also central, accessible and offer best-in-class facilities.” Other on-campus marketing initiatives include on-site activations at RBC campus branches (including Olympian appearances, digital screen takeovers and fully-branded branch wraps) and a “campus influencer program,” featuring “RBC Training Ground” ambassadors influencing program registration amongst pertinent university and college groups, like intramural teams and varsity athletics.

“We think that university campuses are rich with talent and, in some cases, unfound athletic talent,” she says.

In different regions where events are being held, RBC has been running TV spots highlighting how athletes can have their athletic dreams realized. One of the new spots shows the evolution of an athlete: how the sport starts as “a game,” then “a hobby,” then “more than a hobby,” showing athletes opening up a presents like a basketball or tennis racket, to playing competitively as they grow up. But RBC also hopes to highlight stories of specific atheleres: Cole cited world record-setting track cyclist – and 2020 Tokyo medal hopeful – Kelsey Mitchell, who was discovered at a 2017 event.

“We are so excited and hopeful that we’ll be able to tell those stories. Of course, there’s a lot of qualifications still to happen. But this is truly a point in time where we believe these stories are ready to be told and, if all goes well, we’ll be telling them at that time,” Cole says.

Featured image courtesy Kevin Light.