U of T launches new platform for the first time in a decade

Launching today, the new creative approach shows why the institution is needed now more than ever.


The University of Toronto (U of T) is giving the public a taste of its new brand platform buttressed by the phrase “Defy Gravity.”

It’s the first time in the history of U of T that brand development has happened at this scale, explains Tanya Kreinin, the university’s assistant VP, brand strategy and integrated marketing.

The university’s centralized brand marketing function, Brand Hub, helped develop the new platform, which takes a more holistic approach than its previous “Boundless” positioning, adopted ten years ago. Launching today, the “Defy Gravity” brand expression and platform is being brought to life through OOH across the GTA, with digital and social to follow.

The brand platform was created for the institution at large, and will allow campaigns and initiatives, including fundraising, to be informed by it. As the university’s central brand, “Defy Gravity” will support and amplify the work of faculties, colleges, and divisions for years to come.

According to Kreinin, during the exercise to develop a new brand positioning, the notion of “inclusive excellence” came about. Accessibility and inclusion, she says, were not areas the university had highlighted as much in the past.

As a result, “Defy Gravity” will be shorthand for the institution’s community-building efforts, and for creating “meaningful change” in the world, with creative highlighting student commentary about the humanities program being a catalyst for social change and its engineering program being a way to help developing nations rise out of poverty through ethical power sourcing.

The new positioning is about working together to overcome obstacles, barriers, limits, expectations, and everything that holds people back individually and collectively, adds Kreinin.

“I’m a big believer in not saying you’re the best, but really demonstrating it through compelling human and emotional storytelling,” says Kreinin. “We want to talk about how the University of Toronto today is needed maybe more than ever before.”


The new brand was first revealed to U of T stakeholders in December with the launch of a new fundraising and alumni engagement campaign.

A creative spot, “Together We Can Defy Gravity,” highlights a series of firsts from the past to the present, including Canada’s first Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and the first Canadian born Black doctor, as well as prominent graduates like Margaret Atwood and Malcolm Gladwell, while touting the institution’s efforts to “build a more equitable, sustainable and prosperous tomorrow.”

The in-house brand marketing team within the University of Toronto Communications and University Advancement developed the strategy and creative for “Defy Gravity” and partnered with U of T’s agency of record, McCann Global, to tap into the firm’s global and local research capabilities, data, and insights.