Sobeys gets an assist for its fresh message

The grocer brings food to isolated NHLers, following weeks of heavily promoting Voila as a worry-free delivery option.


The Greater Toronto Area is in the midst of a battle royale in grocery home delivery, with established third-party services like Instacart battling owned offerings from Loblaw and Metro. And, in June, Sobeys entered the fray with the launch of Voilà.

To add a human touch to marketing that supports Voilà’s launch, Sobeys arranged to have the Toronto Maple Leafs’ team mascot, Carlton the Bear, make deliveries to the Fairmont Royal York hotel in Toronto, one of two “hubs” for NHL players to adhere to the league’s COVID-19 protocols, supplying players with food.

The brand is teasing what grocery items the NHL players have been ordering via its comms and PR, and it also added a special NHL section on the website where people can shop the different snack items and produce that have been delivered to the NHL Hub.

The partnership is an evolution of one that Sobeys has had with the Toronto Maple Leafs since 2018, which has evolved from basic signage and arena assets to being fully activated with in-market programs and “campaigns that focus on bringing to life the intersection of food, family and sport,” says Voilà’s head of marketing Julie Filion.

Since its launch, the grocer has heavily marketed the service through out-of-home, radio and targeted digital and social ads. The launch creative focuses on the worry-free aspect of the service, guaranteeing that orders are quick, accurate, fresh and done with minimal handling or hidden fees, which it does in part by talking about the fact that orders are fulfilled in a warehouse, instead from a selection available from a local store. It also has a guarantee, making orders free if they aren’t delivered fresh.

“Online grocery is heating up in Canada, and we want to be the best,” says Filion, adding that its automated warehouse, constructed just outside of Toronto specifically for the fulfilment of online orders, is Voila’s main differentiator. Robots assembling orders allow for minimal handling, warehouses ensure products are in-stock, and both help back up Voilà’s freshness guarantee.

Earlier this summer, Sobeys’ parent co. Empire announced Voilà as “the future of shopping,” noting that, because it delivers orders directly from an automated warehouse, the banner has “tremendous control over the freshness and quality” of its products and the reliability of deliveries.

“Our real-time inventory tracking ensures an item is rarely out of stock once it is inside a customer’s online shopping cart,” says Filion. “We partner closely with our suppliers and carefully monitor the shelf life of all of our products.”

XMC handled the sponsorships side of the NHL delivery, North Strategic did the PR, social and digital, while UM handled all media strategy/execution