Decathlon helps everyone find their inner athlete

The French retail giant is using its holiday campaign to overcome limited local brand awareness as it pushes westward.

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To grow brand awareness in Canada, Decathlon is inviting all Canadians (even armchair athletes) to embrace their athletic side in the retailer’s holiday push.

The “There’s No Sport Like the Holidays” campaign kicks off with a 30-second spot that shows a family holiday party and highlights the little moments of sporting prowess hidden in the festivities, like nailing a shot of a crumpled up ball of wrapping paper into a waste basket.

Decathlon launched its first national Canadian campaign in 2020, one year after the French sports retailer came to the market and when it had only five locations. It consisted of billboards and bus shelter ads, as well as a digital push, aimed at attracting new customers outside of the Quebec market.

“We learned just how little awareness our brand has in many parts of the country,” admits Jaylone Lee, CMO at Decathlon Canada. “I say that a bit in jest, but it is true we do also now have the studies that show where our brand awareness is close to nil, and where we have been able to make headway.”

She tells strategy the holiday messaging, centred around making sports accessible for everyone, is about making people realize how they can be active in their day-to-day, and that it doesn’t necessarily require being in a place like a gym or having specific equipment like, skis or a racquet. That furthers its mission of democratizing sport by reminding people that they’re more athletic than they think.

Lee says Decathlon’s offerings resonate particularly well with parents and families, so it was natural that it would portray a family experience in this spot, especially given this time of year.

The retailer is looking to build awareness after growing and opening its 11th store in Canada this year, including its first in Western Canada, a 63,000-square-foot Calgary location featuring a  fitness studio, QR codes to find more product information and even co-working experiential space (see, below). It also features an automated warehouse, which it is using the fulfill online orders throughout Western Canada.

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French-based Decathlon is a 45-year old retailer with, according to the latest October numbers, 1,718 stores worldwide in 60 countries. According to Lee, it takes a local-first approach, defined at both the country level and the store catchment areas.

“So we enjoy a fair amount of latitude, while obviously respecting brand culture and DNA,” she says.

The campaign will be broadcast nationally on streaming platforms, OLV, and in theatres. The retailer once again worked with Rethink on creative, and handled the buy side of the campaign internally.

The spend was significantly higher than for any Canadian campaign not tied to a store opening, Lee says, as it is the first where Decathlon is talking to audiences across multiple regions. In addition to running the mass holiday campaign to build awareness, Decathlon is running another product-focused campaign aimed more at purchase consideration and the lower funnel.