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Canadian Tire digs deeper into amateur sport

Canadian Tire Corp. announced a swath of deals with amateur sport organizations Wednesday in a bid to deepen its ties to a major market: up-and-coming athletes.

The sponsorships include an eight-year agreement with Canada’s Olympic team and new or expanded deals with six other amateur organizations.

The move signals Canadian Tire’s shift to more aggressive support of amateur sport following its 2011 acquisition of sports retailer Forzani Group Ltd., which owned Sport Check and Athletes World, among others.

This allows us truly to get into amateur athletics,” said company CEO Stephen Wetmore. “It fits extremely well with that business strategy.”

As well as the Olympic team, Canadian Tire partnered with the Canadian Paralympic team, the Canadian Soccer Association, Hockey Canada, Alpine Canada and Canada Snowboard. It announced a six-year deal with Skate Canada in December. The value of the deals won’t be released.

The company has sponsorships for individual athletes coming in 2013. It will also launch local programs with sports federations to teach youngsters skills in activities such as biking, soccer, hockey and skating.

Canadian Tire has long-standing deals with professional organizations such as NASCAR and the NHL and athletes such as Sidney Crosby and Brett Lawrie.

“This is a very bold move that has a lot to recommend it,” said Ken Hardy, professor emeritus of the Richard Ivey School of Business in London. “It’s targeted toward youth who actually buy sporting equipment.”

The deal is particularly timely as massive retailer Target Corp. makes its foray into Canada.

Ken Wong, a marketing professor at Queen’s School of Business, said the deals are a chance to leverage position as a Canadian company supporting sports for which it also sells equipment.

“On many fronts, it’s a very logical and very smart move on their part,” said Wong, though he cautioned that success would depend on how the company connects itself with the Olympic and amateur sport.

thestar.com – Business