Warren Spires

Warren Spires entered the marketing arena on the CPG side in 1990, as consumer promotions supervisor for P&G in Spain, and later moved to Toronto, where he switched to the agency side to work at Generator Ideaworks and BBDO as an account director for clients like Pepsi and Bell. In 2005 he joined the non-profit organization Right to Play (righttoplay.ca) - which uses sports to improve health, build life skills and foster peace in countries affected by war, poverty and disease - when it expanded into Canada.

Warren Spires entered the marketing arena on the CPG side in 1990, as consumer promotions supervisor for P&G in Spain, and later moved to Toronto, where he switched to the agency side to work at Generator Ideaworks and BBDO as an account director for clients like Pepsi and Bell. In 2005 he joined the non-profit organization Right to Play (righttoplay.ca) – which uses sports to improve health, build life skills and foster peace in countries affected by war, poverty and disease – when it expanded into Canada.

With a minimal marketing budget, Spires came up with ideas like partnering with York University’s Sport Marketing and Event Management program, encouraging students to dream up ways to raise funds for Right to Play. Other partnering efforts include the Learning To Play, Playing to Learn school program, sponsored by Xango Juice, and the Harris Steel Right to Play Skate, an NHL partnership that supports children here and abroad.

In July, Toronto-based Right to Play Canada expanded to Vancouver, opening an office in VANOC-donated space in preparation for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

‘Warren has thrown his passion for children and sports and his professional skills as an outstanding client service person into this cause, and the evidence is in its growth,’ says nominator Richard Burjaw. ‘To me, Warren typifies Level 5 leadership. He’s contributed a significant amount of time and energy to the cause, and is a great role model for marketers considering a non-profit organization.’

‘It’s not been easy, because 87 cents of every dollar we raise supports our mandate, with 13 cents for administration and fundraising,’ says Spires. ‘That forces us to be very creative, effective and efficient.

‘I’m proud of how far we’ve come from a fundraising, awareness and marketing partnerships perspective,’ he adds. ‘We were not very well-known in Canada when I started, and we’ve been able to change that substantially, and break through in a big way from a fundraising perspective. But I haven’t done it on my own.’

Indeed, Spires has been helped by the participation of high-profile athletes like Wayne Gretzky, Silken Laumann, Donovan Bailey and especially Olympic gold medalist Clara Hughes, who announced at the Torino Olympics that she would personally donate $10,000 to the cause, resulting in lots of media attention, over $500,000 in donations and skyrocketing public awareness. He also credits CTVGlobemedia for donated air time, Y&R for pro bono ad work and Toronto’s major league sports teams, especiallyToronto FC, which chose RTP as one of its two designated charities.

‘Canadians are now aware of Right to Play and support our work,’ says Spires. ‘We’ve come a long way in a short period, and it feels good.’