Team Photo Project (Short Term)

Events, Seasonal and Short-Term (SILVER)

Client Credits: Canadian Tire
Allan MacDonald, C.O.O
T.J. Flood, SVP, Marketing
Susan O'Brien, VP Strategic Marketing
Cindy Graham, AVP Marketing
Jennifer Haslam, Marketing Manager, Strategic Marketing
Sandy Bobnar, Associate Marketing Manager, Brand
Aubrey Lovery, Marketing Manager, Canadian Tire Brand
Sonia Canonico, Manager, Brand Compliance, Merchandising & Licensing, Sport Partnership
Stuart Craig, Advisor, Professional Sport Partnership
Mitchell Stratton, Specialist, Strategic Marketing
Meghan Darroch, Strategic Marketing Coordinator
Leah Gaucher, Communications Advisor

Agency Credits: cleansheet communications
Neil McOstrich, Co-Founder & Chief Storyteller
Catherine Frank, Co-Founder, President, COO, Strategy
Sasha Volkau, Group Head
Pat Rawluk, Group Integrator
Scott Shymko, Sr. Art Director
Sarah Gray, Sr. Account Supervisor
Dennis Mayer, Account Director
Deb Flippance, Production Director
Alex Kagan, Account Supervisor
Denny Kurien, Digital Art Director
Christian von Seydlitz, Designer
Ravneet Kaur, Account Coordinator
Greg Damus, Digital Lead
Thomas Tevlin, Copywriter
Steph Braun, Copywriter
Selva Akar, Account Coordinator
David Glen, Art Director
Media Agency: touché!
PR Agency: North Strategic
Translation Services: The Montreal Office
Other: Fuse Marketing
Nansi Thomas, Broadcast Producer
Other Partners: Attest Productions; Partners Film Company; David Fleury Music
Other Partners: Fort York; CBC; Silent Joe; Rooster


Business Results Period (Consecutive Months):December 2013 - March 2014
Start of Advertising/Communication Effort: December 26, 2013
Base Period as a Benchmark: No base period - first event

a) Overall Assessment

Iconic Canadian brand under pressure

Canadian Tire had increasing competitive pressure from both international (Walmart & Target) and Canadian retailers (Loblaws and Shoppers Drug Mart) pushing into their market segments, and strengthening online retailers. On a rational level, many promised similar product assortments and pricing. Canadian Tire needed to reignite this country's emotional connection with their iconic brand. Since none of their competitors was as deeply rooted in Canadian life and community as Canadian Tire, a sponsorship of the World Juniors Hockey Tournament and Hockey Canada/Canadian Olympic Hockey Team could be key assets to build that connection.

Leverage Hockey Partnerships in a Hockey Mad Nation

The period from December 2013 through March 2014 would provide Canadians with a display of international hockey and fervour rarely seen, even in Canada.  

The World Junior Hockey Championships began December 26th and ran through January 5th. Hockey Canada then featured prominently in the run-up to the Olympics. The Olympic Games, February 7th though February 23rd, provided an even more exciting platform for Canadians to watch their favourite sport.

Canadian Tire sponsors a wide range of sports & partner organizations across Canada, with Hockey Canada key among them. As Stephen Leacock once said: "Hockey captures the essence of Canadian experience in the New World. In a land so inescapably and inhospitably cold, hockey is the chance of life, an affirmation that despite the deathly chill of winter we are alive".  

This partnership made sense for many reasons. Canadian Tire is a brand that has been supporting hockey through local dealers since its founding in 1922, almost the same time that Hockey Canada has been around. Additionally, Jonathan Toews, Canadian Tire’s hockey spokesperson, had deep connections to both organizations. He came up through the Hockey Canada system. He won World Junior gold, World Championship gold and Olympic gold for Canada. He also bought his very first pair of skates at Canadian Tire. It was a partnership that made sense all around.  

Anything but a sporting goods sponsorship, please  

Canadian Tire had sponsored hockey before this assignment. But their constant frustration was that, “the sponsorship started and ended in the sporting goods department." As their COO put it, they had never been able to activate an idea across the breadth of their offering. They also sold more in wiper blades alone than the entire sporting goods section, so we had to find an insight that reached beyond just elite sports. We found this in the newly launched platform, We All Play For Canada.  With it, Canadian Tire wouldn’t merely activate a sponsorship, they would stand for something important to all Canadians – hoping that would help reinforce the emotional connection to the brand and protect against competitive pressure.

b) Resulting Business Objectives

Success this time would be nothing short of leveraging the hockey partnerships in a way that broke through, drove awareness of these sponsorships, engaged internal and external audiences, and improved perception and emotional connection to the brand. As our client pointed out, the goal of these efforts was not to drive purchase and sales, but to impact the (very established) brand’s image in a positive way. 

The above would, therefore, be measured by the independent tracking and Olympic syndicated studies which would show if the campaign met their norms. We also prioritized depth of engagement over breadth, given our goals.

c) Annual Media Budget

d) Geographic Area

a) Analysis and Insight

In choosing how to activate the World Juniors and Hockey Canada/Olympic Team, we rejected the temptation to focus on the exclusive nature of the elite sports. Others could show athletes training, going top shelf and doing things most of us cannot. We opted for a more inclusive approach, connecting the athletes to people. We felt this was vital because Canadian Tire is an inclusive brand.  So we looked for a common thread that ran through all their sports partnerships. And we found it – from grassroots hockey to Olympic triumphs: they all start with play.

For our creative strategy we needed a Human Truth and discovered that ‘For Canadian families, play is becoming less inclusive and accessible’. 9/10 kids aren’t getting the activity needed to be physically & mentally healthy. It’s a national issue.

We linked this to a Brand Truth, ‘Canadian Tire is a place where families can come together’, to create a new Leverageable Insight, ‘Canadian Tire helps families, so they can enjoy play more’.

More than a sponsorship, this led to the motivating platform: We All Play For Canada.  It rang true for Canadian Tire across 3 strategic pillars:

1) Their family activities:  decades of support of sports (including hockey) and families, broad assortment.

2) Their community activities:  local ‘Jumpstart’ charities that help under-privileged families get into play, Dealer support of minor league hockey and other sports.

3) Their national activities:  World Juniors & Hockey/Team Canada sponsorships, their deep understanding of Canadian values.

b) Communication Strategy

The communications strategy was to demonstrate that Canadian Tire cares about reversing inactivity and inspiring play by giving credit to the families and communities that enable play.

So in the case of the World Juniors/Hockey Canada/Olympic team sponsorship activation, we decided to focus on the importance of community. Rather than go broad and show communities across Canada, we would go deep: delving into one actual community in Winnipeg that helped Jonathan Toews achieve his every goal. There would be no skating athletes, no top shelf slap shots. Jonathan's role would not be to show off his hockey skills but rather his unique appreciation of the community that helped him get to the top.

Authenticity our secret weapon

Critical to making the sponsorships feel inclusive was our decision to feature Jonathan's real play enablers from Winnipeg. This meant a lot more sleuthing to find them all, but would add a layer of heart and authenticity to the campaign. With new competitors in the market and relatively recent ‘interlopers’ who had come here, authenticity was something we needed to leverage. It is also a key part of Canadian Tire’s brand personality and critical for linkage to the brand.

a) Media Used


b) Creative Discussion

The creative intent

Over the decades and across every sport, there have always been team photos. Typically, they would feature the players fanned out in a couple of rows flanked by the managers on either side.

But ours would be no ordinary team photo. Instead we imagined only one superstar, Jonathan Toews, in hockey equipment and wearing the maple leaf. As the camera pulled wider, we would reveal he was surrounded by the everyday heroes who had helped him. It had all the nobility of a team photo, but quickly brought emotional meaning to We All Play For Canada.  

The thought of this unusual take on a team photo set the stage for assembling 300+ individuals from Winnipeg whose contributions to Jonathan Toews had spanned 20 years. Some, like his coaches, he talked to on a daily basis. But there were others whom he fondly remembered and had us track down who had helped him in ways that surprised even us - such as an Italian neighbour Don LaRosa who cooked him pasta when he was 10 and that he believed gave him special abilities. Or Faith Watt who made him power cookies in his youth and to this day continues to send these cookies to him in the NHL.

When all was said and done, we had assembled parents, carpoolers, rink builders, kindly business sponsors, super-fans and a diverse sampling of the kinds of contributions it took to raise a superstar. All wrapped up in a simple concluding copy line, “There’s no such thing as an unassisted goal”.

In the process, we had also finally answered Canadian Tire's challenge of activating a sports sponsorship beyond sporting goods. After all, our rink flooders bought their hoses in the garden department, our pre game meal-making Moms brought their supplies in cookware and the carpoolers got their tires and GPS systems from automotive. We drove the message closer home by placing POP featuring the kind, unpretentious faces of our heroes in the appropriate departments of Canadian Tire stores. There wasn't a corner of a Canadian Tire store that wasn't brought into the equation – proving the campaign’s inclusive worth.

Only Canadian Tire could have made this commercial. Had Bell or McDonalds or any other big sports sponsor tried, they would have had to go to Canadian Tire to get the props to make it work!

The elements

Launched during the World Juniors Hockey Tournament, Team Photo consisted of one 60 and 2x30 second spots.  While these told the broader story of the importance of community, four other TV "Odes" dove a bit more meaningfully into the contributions of specific groups within that community (carpoolers, rink builders, crowd igniters, and coaches/trainers).

In the process of casting these real people, we found their stories and honesty so compelling, we brought a documentary film crew along to capture them.  This led to the creation of 15 digi-docs which lived online where people could search the Team Photo itself for heartfelt stories. If they were inspired by what they saw, or if it made them think of others who had helped them, there were e-thank you cards to send.

The first CBC Documentary ever created from an ad

There was so much good footage of Team Toews that we partnered with CBC to create a documentary feature. From a branded content POV, it was a hockey sponsorship dream. And since the people in our TV Odes were the same people in the documentary, the entire event was uniquely hockey and Canadian Tire.  It would go on to attract 1.9 million viewers, a number that even the CBC didn’t expect (a Leafs vs. Canadiens game on a Saturday night gets 2 million).

Further evidencing the breadth of the campaign Team Photo Project lived on campaign website, social media, PR, in-store, a neighbourhood OOH domination, and in a myriad of digital formats online. 

Unprecedented celebrity engagement

One of the surprising benefits of such an inclusive thought as We All Play For Canada and the noble cause, was the willingness of highly credible Canadians to be part of Team Photo Project. Ken Dryden, for instance, who insists he "does not do commercials" saw this message of inclusion and community as an imperative and became the voiceover for “Team Photo”. In Quebec, Roch Carrier, the author of the legendary story "The Sweater" said he found the message so compelling, he simply had to be part of it. And in a first, we turned the visual of the Team Photo into a jacket that Don Cherry made a personal choice to feature on both Coach's Corner and wore for his grand entrance and over 5 minutes of camera time on Hockey Day in Canada (estimated $1.6MM PR value).

c) Media Discussion

The World Juniors and Olympic hockey are events that attract big viewership and a long list of advertisers. To be recognized as a top tier sponsor a brand must be seen on TV. So television was the natural and biggest part of our media mix.

To stand out in a saturated TV environment we capitalized on most watched events (opening and closing ceremonies, gold medal hockey game, etc.) with a diverse creative pool.

Further, we created “domination days” when the same creative celebrating one group of unsung heroes ran on TV as well as all the digital networks. 

For the gold medal men’s hockey game we ran “Team Photo” that ended with the line “…there’s no such thing as an unassisted goal”. Shortly after Canada emerged victorious we ran the spot with a revised ending, which had been trafficked in just this case - “… there’s no such thing as an unassisted GOLD”. It triggered a frenzy in social media.

Digital ads on, Facebook and Google network capitalized on the nation’s interest in the Olympics and invited Canadians to express their love of play and appreciation for the people that help enable it.

The in-store signage became another media vehicle.

We also used neighbourhood domination in outdoor – transit shelters, billboards, murals above the ground and the subway platforms, turnstiles, stairways and wall-wraps underground reminded everyone about the unsung heroes of play they saw in other media.

a) Sales/Share Results

The campaign was more successful than even our most aggressive goals. It not only activated event sponsorships but sent a jolt of energy into the brand, stirred emotions of Canadians, and elevated perceptions of Canadian Tire and the role it plays in our communities and the nation.

It broke through and drove awareness:

-     Canadian Tire became a Tier 1 Olympic sponsorship awareness in unprecedented 1st year of sponsorship, ranked 4th out of 49 companies, surpassed only by 3 worldwide sponsors with larger spends and longer history with the Olympics1

  • Charlton Syndicated Olympic Study called it “The most successful Olympic launch they had ever seen”. 

-       Online ad awareness was quadruple independent Ipsos norms 




Source:  Ipsos S1 2014 Tracking, Jan 2 – Mar. 5/14


  • Engagement rates never before seen at Canadian Tire: Facebook and Twitter engagement rates were triple industry standards, time on website more than double (2.24x), pre-roll completion rates +47% vs. benchmark


Improved perceptions of the brand

Those who had been effectively exposed to the Team Photo (Recallers vs. Non-Recallers) had significantly better impression of the company:



Surprisingly, this was true across all attributes measured with what researchers described as a positive ‘halo effect’ even on measures not directly addressed in the Team Photo.

In terms of an indication that this is likely to translate into positive growth for Canadian Tire, it was encouraging to note that when we look at reactions to the advertising (i.e. Team Photo diagnostics), the scores for CT’s upside opportunity target group are on average 35% higher than the scores for their traditional franchise (which was also strong, averaging higher than norms).

Built very positive engagement with brand in Social: 

-       The percentage of positive comments in CT Facebook climbed to 4 times the Canadian Tire average3

-       The tweet with the “Unassisted Gold” actually hit ten times standard engagement rate4

-       Total views of the campaign online were 1,438, 802, with a pre-roll completed view rate +47% over industry average5

-       Helped create passionate brand advocates: Someone with a service complaint got this Advocate’s rebuttal:“Canadian Tire Rocks. They sponsor and support the athletes and fund equipment for schools when they can’t buy it …They also help families put their children in sports ... They don’t have to do anything. They choose to do it because they care. We all play for Canada. If you don’t want to play then don’t, but don’t be bitter…because they believe in a positive program. Go Canadian Tire. Go Canada.” KVV, FB contributor


Facebook comments which would touch anyone’s heart:



Generated unseen levels of support internally

  • Dealers agreed to use an unprecedented amount of Team Photo imagery Point of Sale materials and outdoor signage
    • campaign inspired highest level of Dealer participation (95%)

Company chose to use Team Photo imagery in Annual Report, Executive speeches, and at the Dealer Convention.

Ultimately the success of the Team Photo Project was that it leveraged hockey partnerships and events to deliver a message that transcended hockey. It succeeded because it spoke to those of us who play a role in helping kids play.

It showed we all do play for something bigger than ourselves.

We All Play For Canada. 

b) Consumption/ Usage Results

c) Other Pertinent Results

d) Return on Investment

1 Charlton Syndicated Olympic Tracker, Charlton Strategic Research, April 2014 (N=1507)
2 Ipsos S1 2014 Tracking, Jan 2 – Mar. 5/14
3 Earned Social Media Monitoring, Digital Hug, Mar. 2014
4 Canadian Tire Internal Tracker
5 PHD Touche Post Buy Report

a) General Discussion

Canadian Tire had had sponsorship relationships with Hockey Canada before. In fact, one of the initiatives involved the same celebrity athlete – Jonathan Toews.  But no other hockey initiative achieved the success of “Team Photo”.

The “Team Photo Project” rallied the internal stakeholders and consumers around a cause relevant for all Canadians – helping kids and families stay active.

Besides the positive brand associations with sports partnerships, when we isolated those who were effectively exposed to the Team Photo Project vs those that were not, there was a positive impact on brand health metrics:


So, for example, people who saw Team Photo were 33% more likely to agree that Canadian Tire cares about the well-being of Canadians, than those who did not.

b) Excluding Other Factors
Spending Levels:

Since our goal was to create a stronger emotional connection as opposed to driving sales, our metrics are research scores vs. long-established independent norms (Ipsos). These norms are already adjusted for GRP/spend levels. 


No dramatic pricing changes were introduced 

Distribution Changes:

Distribution has remained stable.

Unusual Promotional Activity:

There was no unusual promotional activity

Other Potential Causes:

There were no other factors that could have impacted the brand measures when we isolate those amongst people exposed to the campaign versus those who were not.