New Canadian Tire campaign bids us to go play

This story was updated Aug. 19, 2013
The play’s the thing for Canadian Tire. The retailer has launched a new national marketing program called “We All Play for Canada” that is designed to encourage play among Canadian kids.

The new program has been in development since January, when Canadian Tire announced an eight-year sponsorship agreement with the Canadian Olympic Committee and partnerships with six other amateur sport groups including the Canadian Soccer Association, Hockey Canada, Alpine Canada Alpin and Canada Snowboard.

“We’ve essentially created a consortium of groups and organizations that are authoritative in sports, and we really wanted to try to make a mark on the nation in terms of our authority and the fact that we enable play in Canada,” said TJ Flood, senior vice-president of marketing for Canadian Tire in Toronto.

“We see it as more than just a campaign – we see it as a rallying cry and a movement Canadian Tire wants to start to bring back play in Canada,” he added. “We’re all about helping enable the jobs and joys of life in Canada, and we feel play plays a huge role in that.”

The program launched Friday with a 60-second TV spot, “Anthem,” created by Toronto’s Cleansheet Communications. The spot will air on English and French TV channels including CBC, CTV, Global, SRC and TVA, as well as specialty channels. A cinema version will also debut Aug. 23.

The spot opens with actual historical footage of people enjoying sled rides, first bike rides and their first pair of ice skates as a voiceover talks about Canadian Tire’s longstanding passion for play. The shot then pulls back to show the images being screened on the side of an empty swimming pool, as a voiceover states “but have you noticed, play doesn’t come out to play as much anymore.”

As the scene shifts indoors, to kids sitting inside playing with their iPods and videogame systems, the accompanying voiceover states: “As a company that cares deeply about families, knowing half our kids aren’t active matters – for a country without strong children cannot stay strong.”

The creative approach was fueled by a survey of more than 5,500 Canadian households conducted last year into the things that are preventing play in Canada. The top responses were time, money and an increased unwillingness by Canadian children in the videogame era to engage in physical activity.

The spot ends on a hopeful note with images of kids playing accompanied by glimpses of high-profile Canadian athletes including the Chicago Blackhawks’ Jonathan Toews and Olympic soccer player Christine Sinclair, before driving to a new microsite, WeAllPlayForCanada.ca, developed by Tribal DDB.

The site invites people to upload their own photos, videos and tips related to play and will feature what Flood called a “ticker” that will highlight stories culled from various sources that spotlight kids at play.

Flood said that his faith in the campaign direction was underscored by a question from his 10-year-old daughter, who asked after seeing “Anthem” if their already active family was active enough. “If we could get every 10-year-old girl and boy in this country asking that question, that would be a pretty cool legacy for Canadian Tire to leave,” said Flood. “That’s where we want to go.”

Flood said that the campaign is primarily designed to strengthen the emotional connection between Canadian Tire and its customers, although it does present an opportunity to promote specific products within its play division.

The campaign will run through October. Media for this effort was handled by Mediacom.

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