Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series highlighting cause marketing campaigns from around the world called ‘Global Voices’ and brought to you by Your Public Interest Registry. We hope our team of international contributors will shed insights into cause marketing in their home country and inspire you to expand your own purpose-driven horizons.
There are many things people think of when asked to describe Canada: hockey, winter, beautiful mountains, toques, funny accents, free healthcare and an innate reflection to say “sorry”.
Less known outside our geographic boundaries are the companies that help to define our identity. For coffee lovers we have Tim Horton’s, for comfort clothes enthusiasts we have Roots, for yoginis we have LuluLemon and for all things home improvement and car, we have the iconic retailer Canadian Tire.
It is said that most Canadians visit a Canadian Tire once a month to buy light bulbs, cleaning supplies, fix their cars or purchase home appliances. But perhaps the thing that is most ingrained in consumers’ minds is the sporting equipment they sell. You would be hard pressed to find a Canadian that didn’t buy their first bike, glove, skates or basketball at a Canadian Tire.
So it made sense that when Canadian Tire decided to focus their community efforts they turned to physical activity and play, given their deep commitment to it over the decades.
The program is called Jumpstart and it is designed to enrich the lives of kids in need through sport and physical activity. This is especially important because one in three Canadian families cannot afford to enroll their kids in organized sports and physical activity, which means many kids are missing out on the benefits that come with organized play.
The charitable arm of the company is dedicated to removing financial barriers so kids across Canada have the opportunity to get off the sidelines and into the game, making it possible for all kids to participate. They describe their efforts as “equipping kids for life because quality physical activity in kids does more than improve health and well-being. It helps build confidence, leadership, productivity and creativity.”
When I sat down with Susan O’Brien, Vice President, Strategic Marketing at Canadian Tire to discuss Jumpstart and their recent marketing efforts “We all play for Canada” I was curious to understand how their community efforts support their business efforts and vice versa.
As Susan described, “Canadian Tire has always been about play – first bike, hockey stick, glove – it’s in our DNA. So we wanted to evolve our commitment by starting a conversation and building a burning platform that would help parents think about the importance of play for their kids and family.”
The company recognizes that with the declining levels of physical activity in the country, parents and kids need to be inspired and motivated to get active. They believe that a nation without strong kids cannot stay strong. And what makes Canadians strong is our ability to play (be active) because of the values that underpin it: cooperation, focus, teamwork, collaboration and problem solving. And so Canadian Tire amplified their Jumpstart efforts with an inspiring marketing campaign called “We all play for Canada” that drew attention to the issue and tied in their sports marketing sponsorship activities and efforts.
Still in development, they are now working on an advocacy initiative to complement their community program to tackle the lack of daily physical activity that happens in schools.
When I asked Susan if the company’s efforts were having a direct impact on their financial bottom line (in order to support the thesis that profit and purpose do go hand in hand) she was effusive in the power of their efforts to increase their brand loyalty. Having demonstrated a real and long lasting commitment to the issue, they are seeing that customers’ affinity for the brand remains strong and is increasing, thanks in large part to their community efforts.
So while I would personally love to see Canadian Tire push it further and use their desired social impact as a core business driver (increase in sale of products, acquisition of customer, retention of employees), they must be applauded for their commitment and creativity in advancing the issue in communities across Canada.