The Indie List: Torque Strategies

A powerhouse partner

After building a successful bid to bring the HSBC Rugby Sevens tour to Vancouver, Torque Strategies helped market the brand new event, packing more than 76,000 rugby fans into BC Place over two days.

TORQUE strategies certainly fits the definition of a “small agency,” but there is nothing small about the impact of this strategy shop. The fifteen-person team, with offices in Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary, has conceived effective marketing programs that earn national attention for top-tier brands. What else would you expect from the team that built a record-breaking sponsor program for the Winter Olympics?

Hudson’s Bay knew this when they asked TORQUE to build its strategy for Canada 150. It was a big challenge. Bart Given, managing director at TORQUE, says a mismanaged effort could have made it look like the retailer was just trying to cash in on the event. Canada 150 was an overcrowded market of companies jumping on the bandwagon – a tough market in which to meet business goals.

“Everything we did had to focus on driving people to retail with a meaningful purpose,” Given says.

TORQUE Strategies was launched to meet just such a challenge. It opened in 2014 as part of the TwentyTen Group, which was founded by Andrea J. Shaw and Bill Cooper, two of the minds behind the Vancouver 2010 Olympics’ sponsorship program. They garnered a record-setting $760 million in domestic sponsorship, and the company leverages that expertise to reshape how brands think about sponsorship.

The space is much more than logos on rinkboards. TORQUE was launched to turn sponsorships into partnerships. It was so successful that what started off as a strategic consultancy has evolved to meet increased client requests to build everything from on-site experiential events to national brand campaigns.

Finding the best strategy for Hudson’s Bay turned out to be a great way to demonstrate this with “The Grand Portage.”

Brand representatives spent 66 days paddling and carrying canoes across Canada as a fundraiser to help complete The Great Trail (a 24,000 km national hiking and nature trail). Each canoe bore the company’s coloured stripes as it stopped in more than 150 communities. To drive engagement in stores, they also stopped at 10 shopping locations in log cabin-inspired pop-ups where consumers could purchase Grand Portage apparel and memorabilia.

The work won a CMA Award in November for earning more than 200 million media impressions, 25 million social impressions, driving “significant” store traffic and raising more than $1 million to complete the final stretch of the trail.

“Grand Portage worked because it created meaningful connections and conversations,” Given says. “I couldn’t believe how many people, when they saw that canoe with the iconic stripes, wanted to touch it and have their picture taken with it.”

That focus on authentic engagement is behind work for clients such as CIBC, Hockey Canada, DHL and Rugby Canada (with which it partnered to bring a world tour event to Vancouver that hosts more than 76,000 fans).


After successfully launching a new Rugby Sevens tourney in Vancouver, TORQUE helped DHL activate with rugby fans, running contests for game day passes to build hype.

There’s more great work on the horizon too. Partnering with the not-for-profit Canada Media Fund, TORQUE aims to foster domestic and international demand for Canadian content. It’s spent two years analyzing the media market to develop a strategy that builds a strong brand around the work of Canadian storytellers and creators. The goal is a long-term campaign that, when launched in February, will challenge people to rethink what CanCon truly is.

Beyond nailing insights that deliver on KPIs, TORQUE’s Olympic roots mean imbuing genuine, emotional connections in all they do.

“Authenticity is an overused word,” says Given. “But it should be at the core of any strategic discussion, any communication with your customers.”


Bart Given

Managing Director