Air Canada sets an enthusiastic post-pandemic tone

The airline is using the Olympics to launch an optimistic campaign all about moving forward and seizing the moment.

Air Canada is using its sponsorship of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games to launch a new campaign that aims to set an optimistic direction forward.

While the spot, titled “Rise Higher,” will officially premiere during the opening ceremony of the Olympics, and is part of a larger initiative by the airline during the 2020 Games, it was developed to stand alone.

“As we’re coming out of the pandemic, the stars have aligned for us to share this message on a pretty big field during the Games. But even if the Games weren’t taking place, this would be our message,” says John Xydous, director of brand strategy and content marketing at the airline.

And the message is intended to be a positive one. The spot features some athletes, but focuses more on “youthful enthusiasm” for being able to pursue the things one cares about again, be it sports, travelling, making romantic connections or seeing friends and family. The message is centred around “making the moment count,” as Air Canada’s consumer insights have shown that the last year and a half made it clear to many how important it is to make the most of the time they have.

Though the ad would have run with or without the Olympics, Xydous says the Games “are pretty huge” for the airline, which has used the occasion to launch broader brand platforms and campaigns in the past. For the 2016 games in Rio, it launched its first “#FlyTheFlag” campaign, expanding the inherent patriotism in the games to a platform about “Canadian values” that helped promote the airline in international markets, welcome refugee families and reunite families across the country for the holidays.

“The Olympics are something that’s important to our brand because it’s a moment to shine on the world stage,” Xydous says. “The athletes are looking to make their mark on the world stage, and as an airline, if we can support them and play our part in helping Canada shine, we want to be there,” he says.

While the creative itself isn’t Olympic-centric, the airline is supporting Team Canada during the Olympics in a number of ways, including transporting the team to and from the games, promoting Twitter Q&A sessions with Team Canada athletes and collaborating with CBC/Radio-Canada on social media initiatives tied to the #FlytheFlag and #HautLeDrapeau hashtags.

While there has been controversy surrounding the Olympics – including concerns about safety due to the ongoing pandemic – Xydous says the airline has positioned itself as a partner of Team Canada and “it’s not Air Canada’s role to decide if the Games should happen or not.”

“Our role is to make sure that when we are flying athletes to the Games – athletes who want to attend, and have been training for the last four or five years – that we’re making that experience the safest one possible,” he says. “It’s not our place to say if the Games should be taking place. There are people who are closer to them and studying that much more than we are.”

The spot will air on social, digital and TV.