Eva Salem, VP of marketing at Canadian Tire, on bringing a country together with ‘We All Play for Canada’
The tapping of hockey sticks is a sound synonymous in Canada with an expression of respect and sportsmanship shown by hockey players (it stems from the difficulty of clapping while playing hockey due to gloves that players wear). Canadian Tire, a department store brand that’s ever-present in the country, recently tapped into that phenomenon to drum up support for Canada ahead of the Winter Olympics and Paralympics in PyeongChang.
‘We All Play for Canada’ featured three gorgeous spots directed by Soft Citizen’s Mark Molloy that lived on TV and social. Support for the campaign was huge, with more than 117.5 million Facebook impressions and 125.8 million total social impressions. It also featured an experiential aspect with the ‘Golden Stick’, a gold hockey stick that travelled to eight markets across Canada to rally support before eventually ending up at Canada Olympic House in PyeongChang, in the hands of Team Canada. Olympians, including Adam van Koeverden and Jayna Hefford, participated in each community engagement activation, encouraging Canadians to physically tap the stick in support of our athletes. Over 150 influencers including Andre de Grasse and Penny Oleksiak supported the Golden Stick across all social platforms, and the Facebook engagement rate for the campaign peaked at 48% - more than double the industry benchmark of 20%. The campaign garnered over 22 million earned media impressions in more than 50 outlets nationally. The Golden Stick was equipped with GPS tracking technology and ultimately, 57,406 Canadians physically tapped the Golden Stick in support of Team Canada over the course of the campaign.
LBB’s Addison Capper chatted with Canadian Tire’s VP of marketing Eva Salem to find out more.
LBB> Tell us about the starting point for this campaign… from a marketing perspective, what were your main aims?
ES> In 2013 Canadian Tire began to amass a portfolio of premier sports organisations, teams and athletes. Our goal was to leverage these considerable assets in a way that would further deepen our emotional connection with Canadians in a way that would distinctively build our brand with each execution.
To ensure brand relevance and distinctiveness, we built our connection to sports through something we already had firmly established. As a retailer who has equipped millions of Canadians for their many ‘firsts’ in sports, we decided to focus on play – before there is sport, there is play. We loved the values and life lessons that come from ‘play’ and sports and we felt that if we enable sports as a retailer, rather than as a brand, we want to rally Canadians around the important life lessons and values we learn from these important activities.
LBB> What kind of brief did you present to the Leo Burnett team?
ES> This was the first time we had worked with Leo. Our goal was to entrench Leo in the campaign insight and strategy that were absolutely working for us, but identifying opportunities where we could focus Leo’s considerable creative and strategic strengths. Our briefing presentations reiterated the campaign strategy focused on being the brand that helps Canadians connect with the Olympics in exciting new ways through play and brings a nation together through our belief that values like inclusivity make us a stronger nation. Leo was able to deliver a campaign that was emotionally compelling, helped inspire engagement socially and physically while strategically increasing our brand affinity and helping us break out amongst our competitive set.
LBB> Why was it right for Canadian Tire to get involved in the conversation around the Winter Olympics and Paralympics?
ES> Olympic broadcast is very unique in its ability to drive co-viewing, appointment viewership making it a powerful opportunity to engage an audience with emotional storytelling with the noble purpose of bringing Canadians together, along with our brand. We have also been a brand that has focused on helping get kids into organised sport. Whether it’s by helping to remove financial or physical barriers as our corporate charity Jumpstart addresses, inspiring and enabling play and sports is a relevant conversation for our brand.
LBB> For non-Canadian readers - how important are the Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Canada?
ES> The Olympics have of course international appeal but going a bit deeper, the Olympic values and ideas are very synergistic with the core We All Play for Canada concept. Though we as Canadians love to hold up the values like inclusivity as being important to our nation, they resonate more broadly during the Olympics. And it may seem that messages of inclusivity, rallying together and focusing on what connects people could have an extra relevant appeal for all Olympic viewers.
LBB> The stories involved in the three films - how involved were you in the decision to make them the focal point of the campaign? What can you tell us about how they were uncovered?
ES> We believe in the power of an integrated campaign that leverages all channels in which Canadians want to engage with us on. That said, TV and films are especially powerful during the Olympics when emotions run high – and the ability to help Canadians feel even more connected as a nation through our values is what define both our campaign and our national pride. This has been a consistent strategy since We All Play For Canada launched in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. These three films do a good job of telling the story of inclusivity and how individuals who step up to do the right thing help a nation stand taller whether they are a family as in ‘First Skate’, a community as in ‘Curl For Glory’ or as a nation as we show in ‘Tap’.
LBB> The campaign expanded on your messaging of “inclusivity and selflessness” - can you tell us more about that mantra and how this campaign fit within it?
ES> If the three films focused on telling the story the that inclusivity builds a stronger nation, we leverage social and event activations to physically connect with Canadians, giving them a platform to express how they felt about being Canadian, what makes them proud and any stories of unsung heroes who have demonstrated these values.
LBB> Tell us about the ‘tapping’ element of the campaign - what importance does that hold?
ES> It was inspired by the gesture, the meaning and the sound that many Canadians would be familiar with – the sound of people coming together to express support by tapping their hockey sticks. We especially liked the idea of the sound as another mnemonic, and the focus and complexity of the sound design work on these spots is a testament to that idea.
LBB> Outside of the films there was also an experiential element - what did that entail?
ES> We created The Golden Hockey Stick, a way to let Canadians collectively tap and show their support for Team Canada. It was GPS-enabled and featured a counter that tallied every tap. We toured the stick from the east coast to the west, so that Canadians got the chance to show they were behind our athletes. After the stick made its last stop in Vancouver we brought it to PyeongChang and presented it to Team Canada, who were thrilled to feel the support of an entire nation. It was a great and fun way to bring the country together.
LBB> Mark Molloy directed the spots - what do you think he brought to the final films that others couldn’t have?
ES> It was an amazing experience to work with someone like Mark along with the support of DOP Adam Arkapaw. It was an ambitious endeavour to tell three stories that had different tones and, at times, different roles within the campaign, and have them feel cohesive and powerful in their own right. He has an amazing eye for casting and he loves to find interesting and memorable characters in even the smallest of roles. His ability to find performances and moments, his talent for storytelling, his builds and ideas, his enthusiasm for the work, everything. He really just took these spots to a whole different level that I’m not sure any other director could have reached.
LBB> Why do you think this campaign resonated so strongly?
ES> We suspect that the campaign message resonated so deeply and broadly because it’s built on insights that ring true for Canadians as individuals and as a nation. Messages that rally Canadians to come together behind things that really matter to them, like the values that define what kind of a nation we want to be, are powerful and happen to work very well with Canadian Tire as they are important to our brand as well. This is a classic, undeniable insight that is also a great brand fit.
LBB> Now that the games have finished, what do you have planned for the rest of the year?
ES> We have sports for every season. We will continue to support our athletes and organisations throughout the year with our campaign.
LBB> Any parting thoughts?
ES> Can’t wait for the Summer Olympics in Tokyo!