Ron Kruszewski, Chairman of the Board and CEO of Stifel Financial Corporation, has committed to a significant multiyear partnership with US Ski and Snowboard (USSS). After becoming a voting member of the USSS Foundation Board of Trustees, he gained a heightened awareness of the value and needs of the organization. And it was then his interest in partnering began.
Notably, this spring, the company he leads has once again expanded its partnership and has become the title sponsor of the US Ski Team. Undoubtedly, Stifel’s latest partnership will significantly contribute to the success of the alpine, cross-country, moguls, aerials, park, half-pipe and big air programs.
Ski Racing Media interviewed Kruszewski to find out why Stifel began supporting US skiing and continues to expand their commitment.
An avid skier, Kruszewski explains that his relationship started when he joined the Foundation Board of Trustees. “I got involved with the ski team board and decided to provide an example to the other board members on how they could raise crucial financial resources for the organization. We have held an annual St Louis fundraiser that Mikaela has attended every year. The event started in 2016 and has turned into quite the celebration.”
When Stifel expanded their partnership in the fall of 2022, USSS CEO Sophie Goldschmidt said, “The Stifel sponsorship is the largest for the alpine team and is among the most significant across the NGB’s entire sponsorship portfolio.” This spring the extensive relationship between the two entities has expanded.
Kruszewski credits Goldschmidt for increasing the partnership: “I would give credit to Sophie Goldschmidt, who came in and immediately began working on bringing in more sponsors. We started talking and it just made sense for us.”
Concerning the value of Stifel branding with skiing, Kruszewski says, “Look, we think that skiing is an under-marketed sport. It has got a lot of appeal. Frankly, we see the opportunity and challenge. The opportunity is between now and 2026, and we thought that Mikaela and the team were going to do well and that we would get on that train and market it. I still think that is the case. It is also a challenge for the ski team to take their legendary star, Mikaela, and promote the sport around her. Mikaela is also a spokesperson for Stifel and is, in my opinion, the greatest skier of all time. So that’s what we saw.”
Stifel knows the value of branding through sports
Kruszewski explains Stifel believes in the value of marketing through sports: “We have other sports sponsorships, one of them we just completed. Stifel put our name on the St. Louis Cardinals jerseys as part of the MLB. The company also did it with the St. Louis Blues NHL team and we do it with the ski team. We intend to pull everything together on a website to discuss why we do it.”
Kruszewski invites others to reap the benefits
He would like to invite other companies to partner with the ski team and tells SRM why they should consider it: “I’ve been surprised as to the number of people we’ve reached. You would think it’s a very narrow sport. It’s actually a very broad sport and a lot of people ski. I have a lot of friends of skiers that thank us, you know, even if the family just says you’re supporting the sport and we appreciate that. There’s definitely a benefit, definitely.
One gentleman told me he was hiring us on a deal simply because he appreciated our willingness to sponsor teams. We’re an outstanding firm, institutionally and in wealth management. However, mostly we’re trying to get our name out there. Stifel is certainly a prominent and influential firm, yet, many people don’t know that much about us. When I go to Palisades Tahoe, and even when I was in Europe, I had so many people come up to me and ask, what does Stifel do? The fact that I had people asking me that question means that we obviously have room to grow our brand recognition.”
Investing in the future
Stifel’s commitment goes beyond the bright lights of Mikaela and the World Cup. Their partnership with the NorAm Cups and the US Nationals is certainly a broader investment in development.
Kruszewski reveals, “At Stifel, we believe in development and know the next Mikaela or Bode is somewhere in a club and will be moving through the NorAms and Nationals. Also, the United States skiers do not have any government financial support like many European countries enjoy. Many European skiers have civil servant jobs that supplement their livelihoods as they work to become their best, but that doesn’t happen in the United States. So when we thought about supporting the team, we said that must include Mikaela as well as the D Team.
Kruszewski emphasizes that his conversations with Goldschmidt have led him to his belief in branding with the USSS. Goldschmidt has a mutual appreciation of the relationship. The USSS CEO comments, “We’re delighted to have Stifel on board. This is a game-changing partnership for our organization, helping at the elite and development levels. We’re excited about what we can achieve together and very grateful for the relationship.”
The Stifel / USSS partnership will increase brand awareness for Stifel and the athletic performance of the ski team. It’s the right partnership at the right time for both organizations.
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