TC Energy will not participate in Stampede events this year but will continue financial support

One of the Calgary Stampede's major sponsors, TC Energy, says it will not participate in Stampede events this year, from both a branding and hosting perspective — but it will continue with its financial commitments.

'Participating in Stampede events could create unnecessary health and safety risks'

Richmond Champion is seen winning the 2018 Stampede bareback finals, an event TC Energy has sponsored. (Jeff McIntosh/CP Images)

One of the Calgary Stampede's major sponsors will not participate in Stampede events this year, from both a branding and hosting perspective.

TC Energy says that while it will continue with its financial commitments to the Stampede, it will not participate in events next month. 

"This is a difficult decision for us but we believe it is the right one. Safety is our primary value and nothing is more important than the health, wellness and safety of our people and the communities where we live and work," said spokeswoman Suzanne Wilton. 

'Unnecessary health and safety risks'

"While we are as eager as everyone to return to normal, we must remain vigilant in our own protocols. Participating in Stampede events could create unnecessary health and safety risks for our people and business partners."

The company says it has a long, storied history of support for the Stampede and that this decision was a difficult one and expectations about the acceptance of invitation have been communicated directly with employees.

"We have not provided direction to what employees do on their personal time," said Wilton. "Safety is a core value at TC Energy and it is our expectation we all abide by public health measures at all times."

TC Energy says that while the decision not to participate as usual in the Calgary Stampede was a difficult choice, it feels it is necessary to protect the health and safety of its employees and business partners. (David Bell/CBC)

The Stampede said Thursday that no one from the organization was available for an interview. However, in an email, it said it "continues to work closely with TC Energy as a trusted and long-time Stampede partner."

There was no word on the possibility of other sponsors backing out.

"It would not be appropriate to discuss confidential agreements we have with our partners. As mentioned, we continue to work with all of our corporate partners just as we do every year," the organization said.

Nutrien, another major sponsor of the Calgary Stampede, says it is undecided. 

"We're still in the process of sorting out our plans for Stampede this year. Our executive team is making a few decisions early next week," the company said in an emailed statement.

'They may take their cues from TC Energy'

AnneMarie Dorland is an assistant professor of marketing at Mount Royal University. She says this is a huge decision for TC Energy to make. 

"Pulling their name and their visibility from the event impacts them in terms of the visibility they get from participating. The Stampede is enormous," she said. "I think it's indicative of a company standing clear on their own values of how they want to restart in this soon to be post-COVID kind of a world."

Dorland says it's fortunate for the Stampede that its brand has its own power.

AnneMarie Dorland, assistant professor of marketing at Mount Royal University, says other sponsors could take a cue from TC Energy. (MRU)

"People come to the Stampede not because of who its sponsors are, but because of the Stampede itself," she said. "I don't know that it would necessarily change how Calgarians and visitors experience the Stampede itself."

When it comes to how this decision may affect other sponsorships, Dorland says that is still to be seen.

"A very, very large corporation is deciding that it is not something they want to align themselves with in the current climate," she said. "Other sponsors, moving forward, they may take their cues from TC Energy in this way. You'll certainly stand out if you don't.

"It's not even a 'see you later' so much as an 'I can't be seen with you right now,'" she added.

"But I doubt that that would be something that would carry on post-COVID times because it is such a valuable experience."

Former Calgary Stampede president David Chalack said this year's event is "quite polarized," but he doesn't think this will have an impact on people who already planned to attend this year.

'It is the choice of the sponsors'

"I think most people are thoughtful and can, you know, go through the critical thought process and make decisions for themselves. I don't think that they have to be led by sponsors or anyone," he said.

"I'm very much an enthusiastic supporter of the Calgary Stampede and what it does for the community. I appreciate all the sponsorship that we get, but it is the choice of the sponsors."

ATCO says it will participate as usual. 

"ATCO is continuing as a long-time sponsor of this positive, community-building event, and our biggest 'ask' of employees these days is that they get vaccinated if they are able to, and that they follow the relevant COVID guidelines and protocols, whether at the workplace or in the community," said spokesperson Kurt Kadatz in an email.

Enmax, which also has a long-standing sponsorship with the Calgary Stampede, says that as an essential service provider, the health and safety of its team members and ensuring ongoing service to customers remains its priority.

In 2013, then premier Alison Redford dances the two-step with former Stampede president David Chalack at a Calgary Stampede breakfast. (Lauren Krugel/The Canadian Press)

"Our primary sponsorship is in holding the naming rights of Enmax Park," said Kara Kingston, director of brand and external relations at Enmax.

"In recent years, Enmax has not sponsored significant events on the grounds, and our commitment to the health and safety of our team members means that will continue again this year."

Last year, the Calgary Stampede was cancelled for the first time in nearly a century because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Earlier this month, the Stampede announced it will go on in July, but with changes, including the cancellation of the Rangeland Derby chuckwagon races.