What could the Canadian Soccer Association, Toronto Fashion Week, and professional bull riding possibly have in common? Three letters: IMG.
IMG, or International Management Group, is a global sports, media, and entertainment company. With branches in more than 25 countries, the company expanded its reach even further in 2014 through an acquisition by William Morris Endeavour, the world’s leading entertainment agency, to form WME | IMG.
In Canada, IMG works with a slew of sports, fashion, and entertainment icons, such as the Investors Group Stars on Ice, Wayne Gretzky, Genie Bouchard, and Brook Henderson. While each IMG Canada client has an individualized team in place, there’s one man behind the scenes of nearly every campaign.
“One minute we’re talking about fashion and figure skating, then the next moment we’re talking about bull riding,” says Sam Galet, the senior vice president and managing director of IMG Canada. Galet has been working at IMG Canada for more than 10 years, and says the multifaceted nature of his job keeps him on his toes and attentive. Galet is responsible for maximizing IMG Canada’s portfolio of assets and is constantly looking at cultural and demographic trends, needs, and emerging businesses to determine how to adjust portfolios or add to its pool of clients.
One of the most challenging—and rewarding—parts of Galet’s job, he says, is becoming an expert in each field IMG Canada works with. “I like diversity and being challenged all the time, so it’s an interesting job.”
Here, Galet outlines three of IMG Canada’s standout events.
Event: Toronto Fashion Week
Inaugural year: 1999 (IMG-owned since 2012)
Expected attendance: 35,000
Every March and October, Toronto Fashion Week draws some of Canada’s top designers to David Pecaut Square in downtown Toronto. There, under tents and on the runway, fashion insiders can catch an early glimpse of the next spring or summer’s biggest trends.
Galet’s role in Fashion Week, as with other projects, is twofold. First, he works on stakeholder management; making sure the city, tourism board, and senior fashion executives are content with how things are running. Galet’s second responsibility is sponsorship, or finding the right companies to partner with and invest in the Fashion Week event. Galet says he works on dozens of partnerships just for Fashion Week.
One of the biggest challenges IMG Canada has faced with Fashion Week is figuring out how to get consumers there and involved. “Fashion is becoming very accessible, so we’re trying to find ways to make Fashion Week more accessible to the public,” Galet says.
Whereas attendance at Fashion Week has traditionally been limited to more elite members of fashion society, this March, Toronto will set a Fashion Week first by making tickets available to the public for purchase. “We anticipate it will be successful, but it might take a season or two,” Galet says.
Event: Taste of Toronto
Inaugural year: 2014
Expected attendance: 25,000
The Taste of Toronto food festival is a multiday event held in June, organized into six half-day sessions that last four to five hours. During each session, visitors can browse more than 70 exhibitors, participate in cooking classes, and listen to live music as they test the best of what Canada’s top restaurants and chefs have to offer. Last year’s event featured emerging and veteran chefs alike, such as Masaharu Morimoto, Massimo Capra, Abbey Sharp, and Damon Campbell.
Taste events are hugely popular annual events in dozens of European countries and cities across the globe, such as London, Paris, Helsinki, Abu Dhabi, Milan, Moscow, Cape Town, and Auckland. However, the 2014 Taste of Toronto at Fort York was the first time the food fest set foot on Canadian soil. Galet had to work from the ground up with Taste of Toronto, organizing the foundations of the event, building up the right team to pull it all together, and sorting through the right sponsors to invest in and promote the event. Galet says the biggest challenge of kicking off Taste in Canada was educating people about the new event and convincing them to attend.
However, word must spread fast in foodie circles, as 2015’s Taste saw nearly 20,000 visitors. Now that the Taste of Toronto is more established, Galet says he has been able to step back and take a more managerial role.
Event: Professional Bull Riding Canada Cup Series
Inaugural year: 1992 (IMG-owned since 2015)
Expected attendance: 1.5+ million (across all events)
To bring Professional Bull Riding (PBR), to a Canadian audience. PBR is one of IMG Canada’s newest events, kicking off this year in August.
Although PBR draws large followings in Australia, Brazil, and the United States, it has struggled to gain traction in Canada. But after speaking with the PBR CEO, Galet decided to reorganize the event to maximize its entertainment value for Canadian audiences.
“It’s the only sport in the world that really takes man versus beast,” Galet says. “It’s the ultimate David versus Goliath.” PBR events are like competitions between the cowboy and the bull; a cowboy must remain on the bull for eight seconds in order to earn points. If he doesn’t, the bull can win points.
To make sure PBR hits the ground running this summer, Galet helped organize a nine-city tour that is capped off by the PBR BlueDEF Finals in Las Vegas, which is a qualifier for the World Finals. At each PBR Canada Cup Series event, competitors have the chance to win $20,000 in prize money. After putting together a team, Galet began publicizing the event and brokered a national broadcast partnership. The first leg of the tour began in August in Ottawa.