Top community program: Rona’s Olympic Fab Shop

In a warehouse in Vancouver, over 8,000 items are being built for the 2010 Winter Games. Benches, pylons, podiums, wheelchair ramps, ski racks and warming huts - even a finish line - are all being produced with tools and materials donated by home improvement retailer Rona. But the Fab Shop provides something even more important - second chances.

In a warehouse in Vancouver, over 8,000 items are being built for the 2010 Winter Games. Benches, pylons, podiums, wheelchair ramps, ski racks and warming huts – even a finish line – are all being produced with tools and materials donated by home improvement retailer Rona. But the Fab Shop provides something even more important – second chances.

Inspiration

As a major national sponsor of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Rona wanted to show its support through more than just dollars; they wanted to give back to the community while helping to build Canada’s Olympic Games. So Rona and the Vancouver Olympic Committee (VANOC) partnered with Toronto-based agency Cundari and various community organizations and training resources to create the Fab Shop program.

Common at major multi-sport events, a fabrication shop is an on-site carpentry workshop where all the custom items needed for the event are created. But the builders in this fab shop are not ordinary carpenters – they are at-risk young adults who, due to various life challenges, have yet to successfully integrate into the workforce. This training program helps them acquire the skills to begin a career.

Strategy

Building the futures of Vancouver’s at-risk youth is a strong reflection of Rona’s core values – service, unity, respect and responsibility – and a direct connection to its positioning of ‘Building Canada.’

In the two years leading up to the 2010 Olympics, up to 64 people will be trained under the 30-week program, certified by the Industry Training Authority, which oversees B.C.’s apprenticeship system, and coordinated in partnership with Tradeworks Training Society, which provides residents of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside neighbourhood with job and life skills training, and ACCESS, a non-profit which serves the city’s Aboriginal population. The practical training they receive allows them to earn first-level carpentry certificates and to enter the workforce with a renewed sense of pride and purpose.

The initiative expands the meaning of Rona’s commitment to building Canada through corporate social responsibility programs. The only home improvement company leading this type of initiative, Rona truly owns the phrase ‘Building Canada’s Games.’

Execution

Awareness for the program was communicated through a national TV campaign created by Cundari as well through an internal campaign.

A series of TV spots ran last summer leading up to and during the Beijing Olympics, introducing the program to consumers and highlighting a recent graduate, Joshua Prince. Through the program, Prince earned his first-level carpentry certificate. He has since been hired at the Rona Fab Shop to help train the new round of participants entering the program. Now he is working to complete his carpentry qualifications in the hopes of becoming a certified carpenter.

A five-minute video and posters were displayed in Rona stores across the country to inform employees of the program and Rona’s Olympic involvement in general.

Results

Two groups of trainees have now completed the program, with a third group at work at press time. Each of the graduating students now has the opportunity to have a successful career in the building trade. The latest group, made up of women, was announced shortly before International Women’s Day in March.

One in 10 Canadians can recall the Rona Olympic ads, increasing awareness of the brand. The campaign boasts increases in pre- versus post-Beijing Olympic recall noted at +4 points unaided and +10 points aided. Post 2008, both breakthrough and equity scores for Rona are significantly higher than the competition. This response helped drive sales and increase ROI. A new Olympic campaign should air this fall and last through the Vancouver Games (Feb. 12 to 28).

There is strong growth potential for this program. Rona has laid down the foundation for a very impactful mentorship and apprentice program that can extend well beyond the 2010 Olympics. The company is considering expanding the program into other disciplines such as electrical, plumbing and design programs.

Judges’ comments

‘I’m so tired of cause marketing programs that are more sizzle than steak, and do nothing to contribute to meaningful social or environmental change. They just clutter the marketplace and create an even more sceptical consumer. I love Rona’s Fab Shop because it perfectly matches a great program with great marketing. The connection between cause and company is easy and intuitive for consumers. The two outcomes of the program (building items for the games and creating employability for at-risk youth) are a marriage made in sustainability heaven at the best of times, but in the context of the Vancouver 2010 Games (which aspires to be the most sustainable ever), it’s simply brilliant. Rona also invested appropriately in marketing, and chose the right time to start talking about the Fab Shop through their TV spot, aired during the Beijing Games. Right cause, right company, right time, right balance of sizzle and steak. Great work, Rona.’

-Lynn Patterson, RBC

‘Engaging local partners to expand and enhance the Fab Shop program, Rona has positioned itself as a major community leader. As well as providing a safe and respectful environment to Vancouver’s marginalized youth, Rona is also providing long-term, sustainable solutions to its community by providing at-risk youth the skills and experience necessary to stay off the streets permanently.’

-Nathan Rosenberg, CMO, Virgin Mobile Canada

‘Rona’s Fab Shop initiative is perfectly linked to the brand and its raison d’être. The company’s Olympics sponsorship went well beyond what most other sponsors do by donating tools and developing a unique work integration program for at-risk youth. The program clearly did its job in terms of instilling a sense of pride in Rona customers and building loyalty towards the brand.’

-Cristelle Basmaji, Boutique Jacob

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