Sport is a universal language that we can all speak; just look at Calgary’s 2004 Stanley Cup run, the European soccer fanatics who often overshadow the World Cup matches and the Olympic Games, which capture worldwide attention on an unprecedented scale.
“Sport has the ability to engage and reach people in a way that’s really unmatched,” says Russell Reimer. This is a sentiment he lives by and one that fuels his belief in Calgary’s potential to be a leading sports event destination. And he’s doing everything in his power to make it happen.
In 2005, Reimer co-founded Agenda Sport Marketing, an agency that promotes sport tourism and now manages and represents 11 Olympians, including Kyle Shewfelt, Carol Huynh and Duff Gibson. (Four of the agency’s Olympians will also be competing in Vancouver’s 2010 games.)
Reimer is an affable, chatty guy, and he talks excitedly of building on the 1988 Olympics and upholding Calgary’s sport legacy. “What Frank King, Bob Niven and those guys went through to get the Olympic Games — it took three times before they were successful,” he says.
“They made the decision to bring the Olympics to Calgary … they understood they were building the type of Calgary that they wanted to live in.”
Reimer is doing the same thing. Earlier this year, he worked with the hugely successful Red Bull X-Fighters motocross tour — which will return in 2010 — and the world’s top snowboarders with the Burton Canadian Open in Calgary.
And Reimer is not content to stop there. His company is also behind a marketing initiative that partners Travel Alberta with seven winter-sport World Cup events hosted in the province, including speed skating, alpine and cross-country skiing and snowboarding.
Combined, these sports reach more than 150 million viewers worldwide each season. Reimer calls these events “identity builders” — through their popularity and reach, they influence how the world sees Calgary.
“The idea is simple,” he says. “Promote Alberta as a world-class, must-see and must-do winter sport destination.”
Reimer first saw the transformative power of sport and storytelling during his days as a producer with NBC at the Sydney and Salt Lake City Olympics, and as an event-marketing man-ager for Winsport Canada.
Growing up with a Mennonite heritage encouraged Reimer’s interest in community building, and although he originally thought he’d achieve this as a lawyer or politician, he soon found sports to be his true calling.
Reimer is also passionate about giving Calgary youth opportunities to discover sports — a mission he’s carrying out as an advisor for the Calgary Sport Council, a non-profit that acts as a voice and resource for amateur sport in the city. Earlier this year, he also served as the chair for Canada’s first civic sport policy steering committee in Calgary.
Reimer has done much to live up to a claim set out by his alma mater, the University of Calgary, which named him “One of 40 Students That Will Wow the World.”
They key it seems is keeping a positive attitude. “I have a very short memory for things that have gone wrong,” says Reimer. “You learn your lesson, make your mistakes. It’s done and then you focus on the good stuff.”
Why he’s the top: He’s building on our Olympic legacy; in addition to managing Olympic athletes, he’s elevating the city’s profile by bringing large-scale sporting events to Calgary and motivating youth to discover new opportunities for sport.
The key to his success: “Share your vision,” Reimer says. “If you have a bold idea, it doesn’t do anything to go to sleep with it. You have to give it away for free.”