Quick Fire: Getting Olympic-sized value

Canadian Tire's Eva Salem on the unique challenges and perks of a five-ringed campaign.

The PyeongChang Winter Games start in just over a week and its official Canadian marketing partners are likely itching to see how consumers will react to their Olympic marketing investments.

Canadian Tire has been an Olympic partner since the last Winter Games, and recently debuted its campaign for the season (see spot below). To get a glimpse at what goes into producing Olympic-calibre work for a national campaign, strategy snuck a few minutes with Eva Salem, VP of strategic marketing for Canadian Tire.

Eva Salem

Do the Olympics present unique challenges that typical campaigns don’t?
For sure. Whenever you want to talk to people on an emotional level, it’s more complicated because you want to do it in a voice that’s authentic and breaks through. You have all the practical considerations of a regular business, but now there’s a complicated emotional layer. It’s challenging work.

We spend more time on our Olympic work than a lot of our other work combined, just because it feels like the stakes are higher from a brand point of view. You want customers to really see you. I’ve watched more edits of our three Olympic spots than thirty product spots prior to that.

What does the Olympic sponsorship afford Canadian Tire and its affiliated retailers? What makes this investment worth it?
For us, including [Canadian Tire Corporate], SportChek and all of our banners, the Olympic partnership made a ton of sense from the get-go because we have such a history in sport and play. It makes the Olympics a natural place for us.

For Canadian Tire’s retail chain, in particular, we were always about Canadian values and things that matter to us as a nation. The Olympics is one of the few places that play in the value market.

Do you need a big event like this to run a value-focused campaign? What does the Olympics add to that?
Our target audience is active families in general, and I don’t know if there’s another event or concentrated time period that appeals to that segment like the Olympics. It lets us talk to our target in a very efficient manner. We know they’re there and they’re engaged. It’s practical.

Could we talk to them outside the Olympics? The truth to us, as a brand, is that it’s important to be a part of the national conversation that takes place around the Olympics, and do it in an official capacity.

Does Olympic work tend to attract more eyebrows from the senior business leaders?
One hundred per cent, yes. The brand work attracts the c-suite, and our Olympic work is certainly brand work. Because there’s such a values-based message and the national conversation, there’s more interest at a high level there.