Pan Am 2015: ticket sales are up, sponsors' impression values are through the roof, but what about the athletes?

As the 2015 Pan Am games draws to a close, the tide of excitement is at an all-time high. Things started out slow however, with only 850,000 of the available 1.4 million tickets accounted for just days before the grand opening on July 10th at Toronto’s Roger’s center, or the “Pan Am Ceremonies Venue” as it will be known for the span of the Games in compliance with various sponsor exclusivity agreements. Premier sponsor CIBC even facilitated the sale of tickets at a 25% discount days before the event, with dual motives of increasing attendance and consequently upping exposure for their brand.

“Pan-Ampathy” didn’t last long however, as the hype surrounding Canada’s outstanding medal performance intensified, causing ticket sales to jump more than 300,000 since the opening ceremonies. With tickets sales passing 1 million last week, sponsors and Pan Am organizers alike are happy with the rising turnout. Ticket purchases took another jump when it leaked that international superstars Kanye West and Pitbull would be performing at the closing ceremonies, the product of a value in-kind donation by Pan Am partner Live Nation who is footing a portion of the booking fees.

All in, Pan Am organizers expect revenue from ticket sales to reach $40 million, with sponsorship and government subsidies meant to help cover the remaining $2.5 billion price tag of the Games.

Pan Am fever has been a boon for social media and television networks as well, with roughly 16 million Canadians, or 46 percent of the population, tuning in to watch the multi-sport event according to a release by the CBC and its partners. The success has caused CBC up its TV coverage and online livestreaming of the Games, adding 12 more hours of coverage to its original broadcast schedule.

According to organizers, Pan Am 2015 has been a trending topic globally with over 534,000 social media mentions and 1.82 international impressions. Pan Am staff claim that the website has received 7.2 million hits and counting and the Games official app has been downloaded more than 135,000 times in the past two weeks.

With the breadth of local and international exposure, one would expect some of the benefits to trickle down to the hardworking athletes around which the event is built. However, according to Team Canada javelin competitor Liz Gleadle from Vancouver BC, this is not the case.  Gleadle threw an impressive 62.83 meters to win Pan Am Gold this past Tuesday. When asked about any financial kickback resultant from her win, the answer was a little sobering

“None.” She replied.

Unlike the Olympics, there aren’t any financial rewards for placing in the top three at the Pan Am or Commonwealth games. Any money that goes to the athletes does so through sponsors, and according to Gleadle, meaningful sponsorship is not always easy to come by at this level.

“I don’t have any [sponsors] yet. No one has approached me. It’s been a tough road but I am hoping that the Pan Ams might generate some interest”.

To those familiar with athletic partnerships, Gleadle’s difficulty in securing post medal sponsorship isn’t surprising. “The Pan Am games simply doesn’t provide the type of exposure and worldwide appeal the sponsors with the big bucks are willing to throw cash at”, explains Brian Cooper president of S&E Sponsorship in Toronto.

Gleadle said she didn’t know about the post competition experiences of fellow medal winners,  “I’m in the U.K right now and [I] don’t know what is going on with the other athletes post comp. Hopefully they get something. Some athletes easily catch sponsor’s interests, others don’t.”

Overall, Gleadle is positive and hopeful, still riding out the high from her Gold victory and is not letting the lack of funding affect her outlook, “I’ve received a lot of great press though! And a lot of people are recognizing me and giving me their congratulations. That means so much to me”

If only a pat on the back paid for a new pair of training shoes.


-Erin Beaudoin