On the eve of a new National Bank Tennis Open, maple syrup makers dreamed of sponsorships with tennis stars Leylah Fernandez and Félix Auger-Aliassime, but the partnership never materialized.
• Also read: National Bank Open: Why sponsor a tennis tournament?
“We tried to see if there was a potential partnership for this year to be a sponsor, but unfortunately that didn’t happen,” says Geneviève Martineau, communications director at Les Producteurs et Productrices Acéricoles du Québec (PPAQ), during a Interview with LeJournal.
But on paper, the table was set for such a partnership. In 2020, in a state of grace, player Vasek Pospisil drank syrup on the pitch to give himself energy, which was praised by fellow countryman Félix Auger-Aliassime.
Then, last year, the young player Leylah Fernandez, a real dynamite at the last United States Tennis Open, explained in prime time that the successes of Quebec players were explained by the consumption of the delicious elixir.
That little phrase, spoken in the United States, the top export market for maple syrup producers here (76% of Quebec’s maple syrup is exported to our southern neighbors), didn’t go unnoticed.
The Quebec Maple Syrup Producers have held sponsorship talks with Leylah Fernandez and Félix Auger-Aliassime’s agent Bernard Duchesneau. However, the financial resources of the maple syrup producers here had not matched those of Subway or Weston, the Canadian food industry giant that owns the Maxi-Banner.
“Our board found it very interesting that we talked about syrup and even tennis. They wanted to see if we could partner with them,” explains Ms. Martineau.
A seed was grown, maple gifts were sent, and conversations were held with the players’ entourage. But both sides disagreed.
“They had a lot of inquiries about their success at the US Open. In terms of what the agreement included and what they were asking for, it didn’t fit us. Let’s say a Gatorade was hard to beat,” Ms. Martineau explained philosophically.
The deal didn’t necessarily include advertising, but it did include social media presence and brand identification.
“It’s not out of the question that we’ll try a fresh approach, but it’s not in our plans at the moment,” she said.
The two players’ agent, Bernard Duchesneau, did not answer questions from the Journal.
While they’ve said no to maple syrup, the two star players have recently teamed up with sponsors with deeper pockets. Fernandez is notably a partner with Subway, Gatorade, Lululemon and Google.
Auger-Aliassime has an agreement with Adidas and is participating in an advertising campaign with Maxi again this year. In addition, both players had promoted the low-cost airline Flair.
Hugo Houle, Quebec cyclist
For its part, the maple syrup industry is trying to reposition its image to appeal in particular to athletes. Among the ambassadors is a certain Hugo Houle, the youngest stage winner of the Tour de France.
“Hugo is proud to contribute to Ahorn’s local and international impact. During his visit to the Tokyo Olympics, he had maple products in his suitcases,” revealed Gwenaëlle Marchand, PPAQ consultant.
The makers say they’re working with nutritionists and have created several capsules that associate the syrup with “fuel for athletes.”
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