Brands bet big on the Raptors

MasterCard, Unilever and Sport Chek are tapping into pre-playoff hype for their activations.


Brands are jumping on the power of #WetheNorth ahead of the NBA playoffs with activations targeting basketball fans in Toronto and beyond.

MasterCard Canada, along with BMO, is giving a sporty spin to its ongoing “Priceless Surprises” campaigns, with a new spot featuring Toronto Raptors star Kyle Lowry.

The spot has the NBA star surprising Toronto fans in the downtown barber shop he personally uses, In the Cut. The shop’s owner, Justin Radam, booked appointments for 10 people, telling them they would each receive a free “#WetheNorth” T-shirt if they paid using their BMO MasterCard.

Instead, they were surprised by Lowry with free tickets for themselves and loved ones to see a Raptors game from MasterCard’s suite at the Air Canada Centre. The resulting video capturing the moments, created by MacLaren McCann and its events and promotions shop MacLaren Momentum, will be shared through MasterCard’s social media channels and as digital pre-roll, with the media buy led by Carat.

“I think it was just clearly the right time, the team is performing incredibly well and fan interest has never been greater,” says Milos Vranesevic, ‎head of marketing at MasterCard Canada.

Unilever has also launched a new four-week Twitter contest today, also partnering with Lowry. In part to promote its Degree dry spray antiperspirant, the brand is asking Canadian fans to tweet what their ideal 48 hours would look like for a chance to win a VIP experience, including being courtside in Toronto at the 2015-16 Raptors home opener. The winner and a friend will win a 48-hour trip reflecting Lowry’s lifestyle, including restaurants and a hotel, and be able to tour the team’s locker room.


The contest is being promoted through NBA digital properties and at the Air Canada Centre on certain nights during the season. Degree will also be doing upcoming product sampling at the ACC. Unilever is working with Harbinger on the social contest, with media buying handled by Mindshare and sampling led by Ariad.

The partnership between Unilever’s men’s personal care brands and the Raptors – with Lowry as spokesperson – was first announced in early February, and this is the first major push since then. Since partnering, Lowry has also appeared at in-store promotions for the brand.

“The ability to leverage an influential spokesperson, such as Kyle, has been an outstanding way to encourage consumer engagement and trial of our new platform Dry Spray products,” Jessica Grigoriou, marketing director for the brand said in an email. “It has also helped us build brand loyalty and reward our consumers with unique experiences, such as with the Degree contest launch.”


Sport Chek, in partnership with the Raptors and Adidas, also launched a new line of “MyNorth” clothing this week, each featuring a different Greater Toronto Area neighbourhood that’s part of the city’s basketball culture including Brampton, Markham, Vaughan, North York, Etobicoke, Mississauga, York, Scarborough and Toronto. The new line is an extension of its “MyNorth” campaign launched last fall.