For three weeks, Jennifer Dela-Cruz, CMP, senior meeting planner at Toronto-based RBC, Canada’s largest bank, helped her company’s executives and clients have a once-in-a-lifetime experience at the 2010 Olympic Games—and enjoyed her own adventure as well. CMI’s Alison Hall got the inside story.

CMI: What is RBC’s history with the Olympics?
Dela-Cruz:
RBC has been involved with the Olympics in Canada since 1947, when it helped the Canadian team travel to the Winter Games in St. Moritz, Switzerland. We were a premier national partner for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, and a presenting partner of the 2010 Olympic Torch Relay.

CMI: What program opportunities come with major sponsorship?
Dela-Cruz:
In Vancouver, we had opportunities to do client hosting in three categories: three-night, one-night, and one-day programs. We went to the RBC business units more than 18 months ago to ask which programs they would be interested in. I was brought in a year out to manage the senior executives’ programs because I have relationships with them and experience with their programs. I worked with several executives on a variety of client programs.

CMI: How did RBC use the run-up to the Olympics to build excitement?
Dela-Cruz:
As a presenting partner of the 2010 Olympic Torch Relay, we created a program to bring the Olympic Games to Canadians. We asked those who wanted to be torchbearers to tell us how they would create a better Canada. We randomly drew the names of about 2,500 people who carried the flame during the relay. We were also part of about 200 celebrations across the country, and hosted several private celebrations with the Olympic flame as it made its way to Vancouver. One of my colleagues, who was with the torch all 106 days of its journey, told me that it felt as if the flame could bring miracles everywhere it went. Rainy days would turn sunny.

CMI: How many RBC staffers helped coordinate the hospitality programs?
Dela-Cruz:
The entire RBC Hospitality Games Time Team was several dozen people, including volunteers who gave up vacation time to be part of the experience. I went out on February 7 and came back March 1.

CMI: What was it like to be there?
Dela-Cruz:
I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. When I landed in Vancouver five days before the Opening Ceremony, you could feel the excitement (even through the rain) and you could see pockets of red [Canada’s national color] on the streets. And as soon as the Games started, it was a whole city of red. At the Opening Ceremony, the RBC team members, all seated in different sections, got e-mail from Pauline Bohnec, RBC’s manager, Olympic Hospitality, that said, “Take a moment to realize how far we’ve all come!” Someone wrote back, “I’m crying.” When the torch came into the stadium, it was very emotional. We were thinking, here we are, after all our hard work.

CMI: What was the biggest challenge for you?
Dela-Cruz:
Because I’m such a planner, the biggest challenge was not being in complete control. We had to learn the rules, how things worked. The logistics were handled by Jet Set Sports, the official Olympics hospitality management company.

CMI: What feedback did you get from clients?
Dela-Cruz:
That it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. During the closing ceremonies someone said to me, “It was a great experience with a storybook ending”—of course referencing the Canadian hockey team’s gold-medal overtime win!

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