Sport Chek goes big on social for Sochi with #whatittakes

With the Sochi Olympics just two weeks away, Canadian sporting goods retailer Sport Chek is launching its largest and most integrated marketing campaign ever.

Developed by agency of record Sid Lee Toronto, the #whatittakes campaign will shine the spotlight on 10 sponsored athletes and their strenuous training in preparation for the Games: hockey stars Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos and Meaghan Mikkelson; snowboarders Mark McMorris and Maëlle Ricker; ski cross champ Chris Del Bosco; alpine ski racer Erik Guay; short-track speed skater Charles Hamelin; bobsledder Kaillie Humphries; and skeleton racer Jon Montgomery. For Sochi, Sport Chek is a premier national partner of the Canadian Olympic Team.

Telling the stories behind Olympic athletes is a familiar approach, one being taken by the Canadian Olympic Committee, which recently announced its “largest brand undertaking in its history,” focusing on emotional videos celebrating the determination of Canada’s medal hopefuls.

But unlike the COC, Sport Chek’s strategy is to position sport as a journey that starts long before the games and continues after – not as a special event that happens once every few years. “Sport Chek wants to show that sport is ongoing, it’s a lifestyle, it’s an attitude,” said Vito Piazza, president and founding partner at Sid Lee Toronto. “Sport Chek wants to use the athletes’ journey to inspire Canadians throughout the year, even when the Olympics are not the hottest topic.”

Eight months in the making, the #whatittakes campaign debuted with a 60-second TV ad (aired during the recent IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship), and will continue to unroll with broadcast, print, digital and out-of-home spots, and an in-store experience. Touche! is handling media buying, and North Strategic is doing PR.

The #whatittakes campaign will also embrace social media, “a major component from a media consumption perspective because of the [Sochi] time difference,” said Piazza. So the strategy will play up the additional, behind-the-scenes content on platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And on YouTube, which Piazza calls a big driver, viewers can watch mini athlete profiles or special moments – such as snowboarder Mark McMorris deconstructing his Triple Cork 1440 second by second. The YouTube videos will also include “shoppable” links to drive Sport Chek sales.

More content will be produced and delivered during the Olympics, and the sponsored athletes will be encouraged to engage on their own social media channels – but to maintain authenticity, they won’t be given a script. “Their stories are an integral part of our campaign,” said Piazza. Once the athletes understood the essence of what Sport Chek wanted to achieve, “we just leave it to them to contribute. I don’t think you want force messaging.”

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