All heart – Becel



Heart & Stroke Foundation


In 1988, on Becel’s 10th anniversary, the Unilever brand partnered with the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada in the development of their first cookbook, which sold over 500,000 copies. Today, 18 years later, the relationship between the brand and the cause continues. ‘We’re intrinsically linked,’ says Brenda Dowsett, brand building manager. ‘Becel’s whole being is providing healthy heart options,’ she says, especially as heart disease is the number one killer among Canadians. The brand supports cookbooks, educational materials and even its packaging, website and e-newsletter make reference to its ‘heart healthy’ roots. But its biggest effort is the annual Becel Heart & Stroke Ride for Heart, of which it has been the title sponsor since 1997.


‘From our end we wanted to do something bigger,’ says Dowsett of the initial decision for Becel to become title sponsor of the Ride. ‘We wanted to take the partnership to the next level.’

Leading up to the Ride, the brand handles the majority of the marketing of the event. As well, a donation is made toward the running of the event (the logistical details are handled by the

not-for-profit) and Becel provides the signage for the day. About 200 Unilever employees participate in the Ride, making the company one of the biggest corporate participants.

Marketing efforts

* About 5% of the brand’s media budget is committed to building awareness of the Ride weeks in advance, which this year included OOH, radio spots and print work.

* And up to 20% of Becel’s media budget is pegged for other Heart & Stroke messaging and initiatives, says Dowsett.


This year the Ride, which falls on the first Sunday of every June and is held in Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton, had over 13,000 participants and raised over $2.1 million for heart disease and stroke research – the most ever, says Dowsett.

It’s an increase from $1.6 million last year, says Christopher Pon, manager, national corporate alliances, at the not-for-profit. ‘It’s because of Becel’s support that this is able to happen,’ he says, highlighting the increased media presence this year.

With next year being the 20th anniversary of the Ride, the brand’s marketing efforts will be even more closely linked to the org, Dowsett says. And will the relationship continue beyond that? ‘Absolutely. If anything, we want to expand even further with them.’

‘Becel would be our model for all corporations to work towards,’ adds Pon. ‘Lots of sponsors that come to us ask: ‘How can we be the next Becel?”