Strategy’s most read of 2018: The Olympics

This year's winter games drummed up a lot of interest in how brands were leveraging their sponsorship.

Canadian Tire Olympics

It’s that time of year, when strategy runs down the list of stories our readers were most interested in over the previous year as a way to look back at the trends that shaped the industry. Today, we are looking at the most-read stories about campaigns launched for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. Once you’re done, read up on the most read stories from the Strategy Tech newsletter and our coverage of the lead-up to cannabis legalization. Check back in the days ahead to see the rest of the news that turned heads in 2018.

Canadian Tire reinforces its Olympic platform

Canadian Tire first launched “We All Play For Canada” during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. The platform shares the retailer’s value-based message among a crowd of performance-focused campaigns during the Olympic games, with the creative approach tweaked every year. Canadian Tire put the focus on community in the series of spots by Leo Burnett, while also amping up its social strategy by encouraging Canadians to share their own stories of diversity and inclusiveness and show that sports – from the community to pro levels – are meant for everyone.

Nike encourages Canadians to be less nice

NikeThe image of Canadians as polite and apologetic is one we tend to buy into, but Nike hoped to get us to forget all of that in its “Play Less Nice” campaign. Featuring Olympians Mark McMorris and Spencer O’Brien, 800-metre runner Melissa Bishop and Vancouver Canucks forward Bo Horvat, the campaign encouraged Canadians to not let manners stand in the way of tapping into their competitive side and propel themselves to the top. While the campaign, created by Wieden+Kennedy, was launched for the World Junior Hockey Championships, Nike carried the message through January and to the beginning of the Olympics with media buys during primetime and activations in some of Toronto’s busiest shopping areas.

Air Canada flies the flag even higher

Air Canada_OlympicsThe “Fly The Flag” platform was started as an effort by Air Canada to position Canadians as ambassadors for inclusivity, diversity and cooperation around the world ahead of the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Given the state of world affairs in 2018, those values were in even higher demand, so the airline leaned even harder into the patriotism and platform’s values in two spots created by FCB (one of which gathered 17 million views across its social channels, which the airline said was one its best performing social pieces ever). The idea has also been used by the airline in its marketing efforts in other countries.

Sport Chek airs a disclaimer to start the Olympics


For the 2016 Rio Olympics, Sport Chek took an always-on approach, setting up shop in CBC’s headquarters to craft spots out of footage from the games in real-time. In 2018, the country’s sports retailer again embarked on a bold strategy, but this time, it focused most of its efforts on the opening moments of the games. After releasing some short teasers on TV and online in January, Sport Chek devoted half of its total Olympic media spend to the first 24 hours of the games in an effort to “own” a window that included the opening ceremonies and an opportunity to reach 65% of Canadians for more than five times. The creative, handled by Anomaly, was a “warning” to Canadians, running down the list of all the risks and hard work that athletes went through to provide the moments that Canadians were about to witness throughout the Olympics.

RBC hits the slopes with Mark McMorris

AvionOlympics1RBC released two Olympic-focused spots via its “Someday” platform, showing how an athlete’s community helped support them on their way to the Olympics. It also launched a campaign for its Avion rewards card that featured snowboarder Mark McMorris in three videos and showed the adventure, food and culture he seeks out while traveling. That’s something the bank believed anyone planning a big trip could relate to – and hoped would also tap into McMorris’ sizeable social following. The bank’s combined Olympic efforts led to RBC being among the top-performing Olympic advertisers when it came to unaided recall – not just in Canada, but globally.