View from the C-Suite: Tangerine’s Raptors marketing a slam dunk

President and CEO Gillian Riley discusses the halo effect of the team's success on the digital bank.


Tangerine might just be the luckiest brand in Canada.

It may have taken the Toronto Raptors 24 years to make the NBA Finals, but it only took one for the digital-only bank to cash in on parent Scotiabank’s $800 million sponsorship agreement with Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment.

As part of the 20-year deal, Scotiabank was declared the official bank of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Meanwhile, Tangerine, which aligns with a younger, more digital savvy customer, became the official bank of the “Eastern Conference champions,” replacing the Bank of Montreal.

A big part of Tangerine’s Raptors strategy has been built around fan experiences. The brand has cloaked Jurassic Park with signage, as well as offered giveaways and rally towels to fans in the park. Some people were even upgraded to sit in the Tangerine suite, while “block parties” have taken place during the games, one inside the arena (where co-branded merchandise gets dropped down from parachutes and into the crowd) and two in Jurassic Park (where the brand gave away tickets). Online, the brand has been engaging with fans through its Tangerine Hoops Hub account on Instagram and Twitter, which even got the attention of Raptors player Danny Green, who tweeted a piece of content that came from the Hub’s Twitter page.

As the Raptors take on the Golden State Warriors in the Finals, fans from across the country (and more than a few brands) have come out in support of the team. Gillian Riley, who replaced Brenda Rideout as president and CEO of Tangerine in December, spoke to strategy about the opportunities that have arisen out of the Raps’ successful run.


At what point did your team start preparing for the possibility that the Raptors would make the Finals?

We work day-to-day on different scenario planning. Before the playoffs started, we set up an entire strategy around the playoffs. We had various ads that we built – we started that back in February  and so we had ads in our inventory. When the playoffs came, we would decide each week how we were going to use our ads, how we were going to use print, social media, our promotions and how we were going to stay engaged and connected with fans. As we went through each series, we would tweak. The soothing music ad, the one about breathing, we didn’t start to air on television until the series got tighter against the Philadelphia 76ers and the Milwaukee Bucks.

What impact has your Raptors marketing had on the Tangerine brand?

Real content and meaningful [activations] gives you brand value [while] purpose-driven-type brand experiences gives more authenticity. We’re there to help support the fans during this period. And if they think that’s great, then our hope is that they will come and engage with us. Certainly our TV and digital OOH, our billboards, print and all the fan activations [have helped drive brand awareness]. At the start of the NBA season, only 6% of Raptors fans were aware of Tangerine. By the start of the playoffs, it was 40%. Now it’s well over 50%.

How long do you expect those positive lifts to last once the playoffs come to an end?

We’ll be doing a lot of work to activate after this is over. We see a 50% increase in traffic on our website between the day of the Raptors game broadcast and the day after. We’re seeing our new customer sign-up rate go up by 20%. So what we want to do is continue to activate those customers on the off season. Once this comes to an end, activation will become really, really important to continue to be relevant for the fans working with the MLSE and the NBA during the down season.

Strategy previously spoke to former Scotiabank CMO John Doig about the ROI challenges of an $800 million sponsorship deal with MLSE. With the way the playoffs are unfolding, has it been worth the investment?

I was driving to work this morning and listening to the radio and must I have counted, in the span of 10 minutes, hearing Scotiabank Arena mentioned at least 15 times. It struck me very much that this deal is bringing so much promise to both Scotiabank and Tangerine. The brand awareness is enormous and you get that conversion and people become really excited about your brand. So I think this is well on its path to huge success. It has massive prominence in Canada  I would say almost globally  and it’s bringing a lot of strong awareness for both parties.

How many Canadians have already come to associate the arena with Scotiabank, and no longer Air Canada. Does the fact that Scotiabank is in the name present a marketing challenge for Tangerine as the official bank of the Raptors?  

We don’t have any stats yet. We’re in the process [of compiling them]. But I can tell you the amount of people that I talk to who reference Scotiabank Arena all the time – it’s absolutely huge. My bet is that it’s way up.

Tangerine really speaks to a [banking] experience that is fully online. And it’s quite unique. So I think it brings value to both brands by having the opportunity to have Scotiabank, with all its products and services across small business, wealth management, retail banking, etc, while Tangerine has that unique digital [positioning] with a different brand and a different brand experience. I use this expression a lot: the rising tide raises all the boats, and together we win in more places than we do apart. It’s an outstanding opportunity for both brands.

This interview is part of a series for Strategy C-Suite, a weekly briefing on how Canada’s brand leaders are responding to market challenges and acting on new opportunities. Sign-up here to receive the latest stories.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.