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Why a Canadian Bank Launched a Book to Drive Diversity in Hockey


Rethink’s Caroline Friesen and Scotiabank’s Laura Curtis Ferrera discuss the need for representation in hockey, and why a book was the first step to normalising diversity, writes LBB’s Josh Neufeldt

Why a Canadian Bank Launched a Book to Drive Diversity in Hockey

In Canada, it might be an understatement to say that hockey is a big deal. In fact, the writing is probably on the wall, given that the sport is literally the one of the country’s official, national games. After all, in a country that’s known for being cold and snowy, what better pastime is there than one that involves skating on ice and popping pucks into the goal? Every year, new kids pick up a stick and skates for the first time, people reminisce about Sidney Crosby’s 2010 Winter Olympic Games winning goal in overtime against the US, and fans across the country tune in to cheer for their local NHL team (while, naturally, hoping for the downfall of every other Canadian NHL team). 

However, none of these things actually make hockey particularly accessible. For a start, there’s the cost of entry. For a family in a financially tight situation, what’s going to be more appealing? The sport where you kick a ball past some sticks, or the one that requires you to own expensive gear? And more importantly, when most of the traditional media around the game - including children’s books - features white, male players, how is anyone not part of this demographic going to feel invited to play?

It’s for this reason that Scotiabank, continuing its longstanding partnership with creative agency Rethink chose to release a book bridging the diversity gap in hockey and literature - providing kids of all backgrounds with a fair chance to see themselves in the game. Inspired by classic children’s hockey books like Roch Carrier’s ‘The Hockey Sweater’, written by Jael Richardson, and illustrated by Chelsea Charles, ‘The Hockey Jersey’ follows Kareema, a young player on the day of her first hockey game, and features a diverse cast, with a contemporary storyline. 

Released alongside a microsite, a 45-second spot, and social and out-of-home creative, the book can be purchased for $21.99 at Indigo, where 100% of net proceeds will go to Hockey 4 Youth Foundation, an organisation that fosters social inclusion for newcomer and high-priority youth through free on and off-ice life skills programs. Additionally, Scotiabank has given away thousands of copies to the places where they’ll have the most impact, and provided free digital ebooks which are available for download at

LBB’s Josh Neufeldt sat down with Rethink partner and creative director Caroline Friesen, and Scotiabank global chief marketing officer Laura Curtis Ferrera, to discuss how this creative undertaking came to pass. 

LBB> What was the brief for this campaign, and how did it build upon the Scotiabank/Rethink relationship? 

Laura> This wasn’t a brief - it was part of our ongoing conversations with Rethink around our ‘hockey for all’ platform, and the constant question of how we can make the game of hockey more welcoming and inclusive. We recognised that there was a big gap in representation in books about hockey, and we wanted to fill that gap. 

I think ‘The Hockey Jersey’ galvanised our relationship with Rethink. Put it this way - publishing a book isn’t something we do every day, so this journey really cemented the trust we have in each other as partners. 

Caroline> We’ve been working on Scotiabank’s ‘hockey for all’ platform for a couple of years. In the first year, it was all about calling out a lot of the systemic issues with the sport and tackling them head-on. Now, our focus has shifted to providing solutions that fulfil Scotiabank’s mission to make the game more inclusive, diverse and accessible for all.

LBB> How did this idea of a book come to pass? Where did it start, and how did it develop into the campaign we have today? 

Caroline> We realised one of the first places kids are introduced to hockey is in children’s books about the sport, but that most of them don’t feature diverse characters. It’s a representation issue - if kids can’t see themselves on the page, how can they see themselves in the game? So interestingly, the books that helped us fall in love with the game were our inspiration to make something that could help do that for even more kids. We knew that if we wanted to inspire the next generation and change the face of hockey, we needed to fill that gap by creating a real book and launching it in a real way. It’s a step towards normalising diversity in hockey. 

Laura> This was the little idea that could. We are big believers in the power of storytelling and books, so we started with the idea to create a modern story that highlights diversity and representation in Canada’s game. With ‘The Hockey Jersey’, we’re creating a tangible piece of literature that can be shared and passed down, for generations to come.

Beyond that, Scotiabank has been part of the hockey community for decades, and as committed partners, we will continue to invest in positive and lasting change in the sport to ensure the game can truly be ‘hockey for all’. With hockey culture under a microscope - with a big focus on the financial and culture gap that prevents everyone from participating - it was time to create this book for underrepresented communities who deserved to see themselves in hockey stories. 

LBB> Leading into writing, what was the research process like? 

Caroline> The research stages of this project were instrumental in making ‘The Hockey Jersey’ real and relevant. From taking inventory of the number of diverse characters on the cover of children’s hockey books to working with a Black author and illustrator, to consulting young, Black hockey player Eva Perron, we aimed to ensure that this story helped more kids see themselves in the game. 

The book also underwent several ‘sensitivity reads’ to ensure that the message was coming across the way we intended. And the response to the story in all those reads was overwhelmingly positive. 

Laura> The research process was thorough and enlightening. In October 2022, the Scotiabank marketing and research team evaluated 150 of the top-selling children’s hockey books for the presence of a female character of colour. The findings showed that most hockey books do not feature a female main character, never mind a female main character of colour.

As we highlight in our ‘hockey for all’ program, factors such as the cost of participation are huge barriers to the lack of diversity in hockey, and that’s why it’s so important to us to donate proceeds to organisations like Hockey 4 Youth - in order to continue making real change at the rink level. 

Partnerships, sponsorships, and programming like this allow us to understand and uplift the kids that ‘The Hockey Jersey’ represents, and provide clear input into our creative decisions, such as the characters and illustrations. 

LBB> The book is written by Jael Richardson, and illustrated by Chelsea Charles. What made Jael and Chelsea the right people for the job, and as a whole, what were these processes like? 

Caroline> Authenticity was key in bringing this project to life. We knew we needed to find creators who could tell the story from a relevant point of view. Jael and Chelsea both bring a wealth of experience from their previous work that made them the perfect partners for the job. Jael previously wrote a children’s book about self-esteem as a young Black girl, and a story about her father, a Black quarterback in the Canadian Football League (CFL). Meanwhile, Chelsea has illustrated stories on Black activists and heroes. They’re masters of their craft and were great collaborators; everyone came to the table after each draft and asked the questions that polished and shaped this into a powerful story. 

LBB> The book is partially inspired by the iconic ‘The Hockey Sweater’. How did you work with Jael and Chelsea to capture the essence of this classic, while also ensuring that the work was original? 

Caroline> Working with Jael and Chelsea, we rooted ‘The Hockey Jersey’ in the same core elements as Roch Carrier’s classic. Incorporating friendship, teamwork, and community, we came together to create a story that would resonate and inspire a new generation of hockey players, while still embodying all of the elements that make the original a classic.

LBB> The accompanying spot is also brilliant! Who directed, who did you cast, and what made them perfect for the job? 

Caroline> We were lucky to work with director James Michael Chiang to bring the spot to life. He knew the brand through previous work, but more importantly, he knew the story we were trying to tell. As a half-Chinese fan and player of hockey, he was bringing a lived experience to the spot. We carried that momentum into casting diverse kids who loved hockey as well. These were kids who would read our book and see themselves in it. 

LBB> What was shooting like - do you have any anecdotes you can share with us? 

Caroline> We got to go back to school for the shoot. There was never any doubt that we’d be shooting somewhere kids and the book would live, so naturally, between the library and gymnasium, it was the perfect place. 

This decision also had the added benefit of putting our cast at ease, so they could be natural on camera. In between takes, they would just keep on playing in the gym. It was great for getting a lot of real, in-the-moment footage. 

LBB> The music in the spot really hits home. Who did you work with on this aspect, and how did you find the perfect soundtrack? 

Caroline> We worked with Oso on the track, and they did an amazing job creating a beautiful, original score. We actually took some inspiration from previous Scotiabank ‘hockey for all’ work but put a more positive spin on it to turn it into an uplifting score. 

LBB> Since release, the campaign has seen a positive response from several professional athletes. Please tell us more about this - what all has been said? 

Caroline> Ahead of the campaign launch, we shared ‘The Hockey Jersey’ with Scotiabank teammates such as P.K. Subban, Akim Aliu, Saroya Tinker and Natalie Spooner, because it was really important to us for the book to resonate. 

Aside from this, since the release, the campaign has been a hit with professional athletes like Perdita Felicien and Darcy Tucker, as well as attracting attention from many young hockey players and families. 

Laura> ‘The Hockey Jersey’ has been endorsed by the group of former and current athletes listed above, and more. Every person and organisation we’ve reached out to was over the moon to learn about the project, and our partners are going above and beyond to support it. You can read more endorsements from athletes, media personalities and more at 

LBB> And in general, how has the public reacted to the book? 

Caroline> The response to ‘The Hockey Jersey’ has been overwhelmingly positive. It’s been especially great to see reactions from teachers and families who have connected with the story. However, the best part is seeing the reactions from kids excited to see characters that look like them. 

Laura> The reaction to The Hockey Jersey has been super positive! It’s been especially nice to see the outpouring of support from teachers, librarians, and parents of young, female hockey players of colour. The book is even being printed in Braille, furthering our mission to make the story accessible and inclusive for all. 

LBB> Do you have any memorable lessons learned from the making of this campaign? 

Caroline> This project was almost a year in the making from idea to reality. That sounds like a long time, but it’s actually very quick when it comes to publishing an entire book. So, it was a crash course in publishing for us all. When it comes to a campaign like this, the biggest thing was to share the goal between everyone - it all starts with clients like Scotiabank who push for exciting ideas made to their fullest potential. 

Laura> A memorable lesson that we learned from making ‘The Hockey Jersey’ was that it takes a village. From working so closely with author Jael Richardson, illustrator Chelsea Charles, and Rethink on creative, strategy, production and PR, PHD on media, and MKTG on experiential… so many people contributed to this passion project and we are so grateful. And that’s not to mention the tremendous amount of work and collaboration between different teams within Scotiabank.

Outside of the interagency team, we’re thankful to work with new and former partners like Indigo on distribution, and Little Free Library to help us provide these books at no cost in neighbourhoods that need them. 

LBB> What challenges have you faced during this project? How did you overcome them? 

Caroline> Making a children’s book isn’t something we do every day, so it definitely came with some new territory. In particular, when it came to getting the book out into the world, we all had to think like publishers, and that came with lots of new challenges and learnings. 

Laura> Creating a book from scratch is an objective challenge, and even more so when there are more voices in the room beyond that of the author, editors, and publisher. It was exciting for Scotiabank to play the role of a publisher - it was our first time - and we are thankful for Jael Richardson’s patience with us being new to the literary world’s processes. That being said, we were able to forgo the status quo, push timelines much faster than usual, and provide support for a robust marketing plan to ensure that as many people as possible have access to this new book. 

LBB> As mentioned earlier, all net proceeds will go to the Hockey 4 Youth Foundation. Please tell us more about them! What do they do, and why was this the right organisation to support? 

Caroline> Hockey 4 Youth is an organisation that helps bring newcomers and high-priority youth into the game through free ice hockey, as well as its off-ice skills program. 

Their mandate to give new Canadians the chance to play hockey resonated with the goals of this campaign. We wanted to make sure that the kids who were inspired by this book would then have programs to turn to, and that ‘The Hockey Jersey’ would go one step further increasing diverse representation in the game.

LBB> How does this campaign fit into Scotiabank’s branding for 2023 and beyond? 

Laura> ‘The Hockey Jersey’ fits into Scotiabank’s branding for 2023 and beyond in that it ladders back up to our ‘hockey for all’ platform, and is a reflection of our wider values: to remind our customers in Canada and abroad that they are richer than they think - not only in terms of their bank balance, but in life through sports, family, teams, literature, and more. 

LBB> What did the chance to be involved in this project mean to you? 

Caroline> Seeing this book in people’s hands and hearing how quickly it’s making an impact is like nothing else. It’s a rare opportunity to take on such a big challenge, and we couldn’t have asked for a better team in our clients and partners.

LBB> Is there anything you’d like to add? 

Caroline> Go buy a copy! You can still get the book at Indigo, but they’re selling fast. In the first week, we were featured on some of the top-selling children’s book charts on Apple, Amazon and Indigo. And, if there are any teachers or librarians out there, Scotiabank is making copies available for free to schools across the country. 

Laura> ‘The Hockey Jersey’ is just one thing that Scotiabank is doing as part of our ‘hockey 4 all’ initiative, but there is so much more in the works. Keep an eye out for more programming that helps support access to the sport for girls, girls of colour and underrepresented communities across the country. 

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Rethink, Mon, 27 Feb 2023 17:25:58 GMT