How SickKids changed its approach to promote a lottery

The non-profit brought the campaign more in line with its "VS." platform and "gave people permission" to be excited for prizes.

When the SickKids Foundation was preparing its latest campaign for its lottery, the charity wanted to take a different approach from what it had done in the past.

“It was about thinking things through a little differently, becoming a bit more competitive in our positioning and doing things that felt very connected to the ‘VS.’ brand platform,” explains Heather Clark, SVP of mass, direct and digital marketing at the organization. “Prizing is very important to a lottery portfolio, but we wanted to tell the story in a different way.”

“If you look at all of the hospital charities out there, it really is a sea of sameness,” adds Craig McIntosh, ECD at the foundation’s AOR, Cossette. “There’s a ton of very tactical, very retail-driven, graphic screens with flying cash and cutouts of cars and there’s nothing conceptual about them.”

The goal with the new campaign was to “break the mold of how these charities go to market,” he adds, by going more conceptual and entertaining, something the agency has done in the past with its “VS.” platform.

The foundation drew upon the insight that while many players of its lottery were looking to support the hospital, others were playing for the prizes.

“We wanted to give them permission to do that,” says Clark of a motivation that some might feel is less “benevolent.” “Lottery is a win-win. If you’re playing, you have a chance to win a million dollars, cars or travel, and if you do, that’s amazing. But you’re also already winning by buying a ticket, because the kids are winning.”

The goal was also to bring the lottery advertising more in line with the SickKids Foundation’s overarching brand platform, which she describes as “bold, disruptive and different.”

“For any brand, making sure all products and campaigns are rooted in a platform is really important,” says Clark. “That’s exactly why we wanted to make sure that the lottery program felt like VS, but we wanted to make sure it was still unique within that platform.”

To achieve that uniqueness, McIntosh said, the campaign does draw on the same confident tone as the rest of the “VS.” work, but it taps into a different emotional range.

“We wanted to make this fun. People play the lottery because they have dreams, they want to win and they want to have fun, and that’s what we leaned into,” he explains.

“Most sophisticated brands, they act like humans with a range of emotions. We’ve done a decent job with ‘VS.,’ with some ads being more bold and defiant and some being more heart wrenching and emotional,” McIntosh adds. “We hadn’t leaned into humour because it didn’t feel right for the space, but for the lottery, it made sense. We don’t want people crying when they watch a lottery ad.”

The new approach has been paying off for the charity, Clark says.

“The response has been incredible not only in terms of the feedback on it, but the number of people who are buying tickets,” she says. “We are very close to being sold out, which is far earlier in the timeline than we would have expected.”

SickKids has been exploring several new approaches lately, whether it be to promote a new charity run or reimagine person-to-person fundraising for pandemic realities.