Pan Am invades Toronto

The Ontario tourism corp is getting epic, haunting and anthemic for its first push to drum up excitement for the games.

If you’ve been in the Toronto area within the past, say, three years, you’ve probably heard about next year’s Pan American Games, which bring together more than 7,500 athletes from 41 countries and territories in the Americas.

It’s a big affair here, and expected to draw in 250,000 tourists from outside of Ontario to the GTA, with tickets sales in the 1.4 million range.

And now, with a new spot by FCB (the first under new CCO Jon Flannery) and United Films director Phil Brown, the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation (OTMPC) has set the tone for what to expect if you’re visiting the games. And in a word: intense.

The new ad, which runs through until the end of December, starts with a rhythmic gymnast on a roof top as a rendition of “Ready or Not” plays, but the scenes quickly cut to more athletes invading Toronto, accelerating at a quick pace.

The spot will run on TV, online, cinema and in various other public places and will be supported by digital and social. It will also run in embassies across the Americas, says Ronald Holgerson, president and CEO of the OTMPC.

“The invasion theme came from FCB,” he says. “We gave them the challenge of ‘We want to sell the games. We want to help 2015 [Pan Am organizers] sell tickets, but at the same time, we want to help people have a sense of where this is happening.’ FCB came back to us with a few options, but this one rose to the top very quickly.”

Though he says the concept of invasion could be construed in a negative light, they were careful not to let that come forth in the creative. “It’s not meant to be menacing in any way, [though] it’s competitive for sure.”

Effectively, Holgerson says they briefed the agency looking for a campaign that highlighted the power and force of athleticism, highlighting tourism destinations near the venues at which those particular sports would be played. “The day they presented the music of this commercial – with that haunting, anthemic voice of Esthero, who was born in Stratford by the way – we all say, ‘Oh my god, that’s it.’”

The campaign specifically targets sports tourists, one of 12 segments identified by the OTMPC in a consumer survey undertaken two years ago, he adds. “Everybody shops and looks for good wine or craft beer and culinary experiences,” he says of the various tourist consumers heading into Ontario. “But the sports tourist is, naturally, very focused on sport activities.”

He adds that regardless of which kind of tourist is coming in, they all want a sense of the culture of the destination. So for this particular campaign it was important to blend the diversity of Ontario (one of our greatest draws, Holgerson explains) with the upcoming sporting activities and Ontarians’ exciting, bold and daring characteristics.

The campaign also unveiled the “Epic is On” platform, encouraging conversation over social media. Following the success of “#Wearewinter,” debut by the Canadian Olympic Committee last year, the OTMPC challenged the agency to come up with an equally grand (or bigger) rallying cry.

Interestingly, “#Epicison” started trending on Twitter, says Holgerson, though it was never meant to be the original hashtag for the campaign, though he says he’s pleased with the result.

Correction: an earlier version of this article said the Canadian Olympic Committee campaign was “#Wethenorth.” That was a Raptors campaign. We apologize for the error.