CASSIES Silver: Raptors embrace northern identity

“We the North” came to life in just two weeks, but still managed to generate 546 million impressions.

Events, Seasonal & Short-Term

Situation Analysis:To many Canadians, the Toronto Raptors brand was devoid of meaning, not yet a fixture in national culture like the Toronto Maple Leafs. Even though the Raptors was the only Canadian team in the NBA, it was usually relegated to the fringe of Canadian sports news. Although awareness of the Raptors was quite high for Ontarians and Canadians, the brand was ambiguous, with few considering the Raptors a prestigious brand.

A planned re-branding for 2014 would involve Toronto rapper Drake, and in April 2014 the Raptors had progressed to the first round of the playoffs, its first time since 2008. This was a make-or-break time for the franchise to be established as Canada’s team and engage more fans but, as play-off qualification was confirmed very late in the season, a campaign would need to be produced and executed within two weeks.

Insight & Strategy: Toronto was the outsider of the NBA, located in the Great White North and criticized by pundits and fans alike. The Toronto Raptors had to stop trying to fit in, and instead embrace this outsider status. The deep love for Toronto of latent fans could be harnessed into a pride of place not yet appropriated by any of the city’s other sports teams. The Toronto Raptors would adopt the “outsider” moniker and employ a tone and message that had never been used by teams in Toronto.

Execution: Running from April 15 to May 4, 2014, “We The North” was filmed in a dark and gritty style, the films quickly cutting between millennials playing ball in a number of indoor and outdoor courts around Toronto, in daytime and at night, in dramatic atmospheres. Four days before the first play-off game, three 10-second teasers that set up a forthcoming 60-second film were uploaded to YouTube and promoted through the Raptors’ social media pages. On April 16, the 60-second film was launched on the social platforms and television, aired exclusively and in high frequency on sports channels throughout the Raptors run in the playoffs. Upon their Game 7 loss on May 4, the campaign ended.

Results: The number of new purchaser season ticket sales jumped from 6.6% in 2013 to 68% in 2014. The Game 5 broadcast was viewed by 968,000 people, beating the 13-year high of 916,000 in May 2001. #WeTheNorth appeared in 60% of all social Raptors-related content for the playoff season where social media activity increased +300% versus the regular season with 157 million impressions through Facebook and Twitter platforms. Overall, the campaign delivered 546 million impressions, 350 million of which came from PR and media, representing $1.1 million in earned media and an ROI of 378%.

Cause & Effect: Although the team had earned its first playoff berth in six years, prior to the campaign it had been getting little traction in traditional media. For the 2014 playoffs and 2013-2014 season tickets, ticket prices increased 2.5% or an average of $2 per game while distribution remained the same for 2014-2015 season tickets with no other promotional activity running.

Client: Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment – Toronto Raptors
VP, marketing & communications: Shannon Hosford
Senior director, marketing, Toronto Raptors: David Freeman
Senior director, communications: David Haggith
Agency: Sid Lee
President: Vito Piazza
ECD: Dave Roberts
CDs: Jeffrey Da Silva, Tom Koukodimos
ADs: Jeffrey Da Silva, Andrew MacPhee
CWs: Jeremiah McNama, Austen Morrow
VP, strategy: Dustin Rideout
Senior strategist: Shai Idelson
Group account director: Jared Stein
Account managers: Nicki Franek, Jacob Barnes
Head of production: Jeanic Larocque
Producer: Jac Benoit
Production company: Steam Films
Post-production company: Married to Giants
Colour: Alter Ego
VFX company: The Vanity
Audio: Apollo Studios
Director, Steam Films: Stuart McIntyre
Director of photography: Kris Belchevski
Offline editor, Married To Giants: Graham Chisholm
Editor: Marka Rankovic
Media assets planner, MLSE: Robert Middleton
Media agency: Maxus Canada
Manager, buying/planning, Maxus Canada: Steve White