Sid Lee & Cirque: From marcom input to creative partner

Montreal's Sid Lee is another agency that stretches the boundaries from advertising to product creation. The co. includes architects and designers to create environments for clients, and has a collective to showcase employee side projects like music and furniture design.

Montreal’s Sid Lee is another agency that stretches the boundaries from advertising to product creation. The co. includes architects and designers to create environments for clients, and has a collective to showcase employee side projects like music and furniture design.

But Sid Lee chairman Bertrand Cesvet says it’s the fertile relationship with Cirque du Soleil – recently named as the most iconic Canadian brand by a Brand Finance Canada survey – that has really allowed his agency to blossom.

‘They’re our defining client,’ says Cesvet. ‘These guys have the most incredible network around the world, and they enable us to stumble onto amazing opportunities that would have been unheard of in our industry in Canada.’

Sid Lee’s work for Cirque ranges from website design to coming up with the visual identities for their shows. But now their collaborations are moving into developing branded retail environments, such as Cirque-themed spa or restaurant concepts.

‘More than 10 million people a year see Cirque du Soleil,’ says Cesvet. ‘In terms of brand love, it’s unbelievable. And Cirque wants to explore other avenues. So they’ve been staging special events, and if you want a $2-million bar mitzvah, they’re the ones to ask. They launched the new Fiat Brava in Italy. They’ve created a bar next to the theatre where they’re playing in Las Vegas. ‘

People want more of Cirque, says Cesvet, and Cirque has been longing to create other kinds of experiences. ‘Research has told us that consumers see Cirque as a great creative brand that can deliver very strong experiences. So if we tell them we’ll do a Cirque bar or hotel lobby, they get excited.’

While their collaborations are still in the planning stages, Cesvet promises that they’ll involve much more than a recreation of a Cirque show in a bar.

‘Cirque visits more than 50 cities a year, and amasses insights about the global village that no one else has,’ he says. ‘We’re not trying to do a bar where there’s a clown in the lobby and a trapeze over your table. We want to emphasize this nomadic lifestyle where we pick up esthetics from around the world and integrate them. That’s what a Cirque du Soleil show is, the integration of all these cultures. And what we’re trying to achieve with these experiential products is the same thing.’

And Sid Lee’s role has been evolving. ‘We went from being a communication partner to a creative partner involved in the development of these projects,’ Cesvet explains. ‘We’ve tried to move from being a marketing communication company to being a commercial creativity company, implementing all kinds of disciplines that are involved in creating values for brands. We’ve basically molded our value proposition to better service Cirque…and said: ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we brought our brand of commercial creativity together with their artistic creativity?’

‘It is a completely new frontier,’ says Cesvet, ‘We went from being nonexistent as a player in creating consumer experiences to being on top of the world. It’s really interesting. If you feel the desire to create a new value proposition with some investment in intellectual capital, and you add the special sauce of a big brother like Cirque that opens all the doors, then it’s a pretty potent recipe.’