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Canada is Raptors Crazy… And Brands Are On The Bandwagon

Canada is Raptors Crazy… And Brands Are On The Bandwagon

6 Minute Read

  • Raptors fans are generally more passionate about their team than the rest of Canadian sports fans

  • Dozens of bandwagon brands are forcing a fit to inject themselves in conversations about the Raptors

  • Efforts from Raptors sponsors build more brand loyalty and impact for fans


It’s an amazing time to be a Toronto Raptors fan. We defeated Joel Embiid and Philly to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals and conquered The Greek Freak for the Eastern Conference Championship crown. As of Today, the Raptors are up 3-1 and gearing up for game 5 tonight at home. For Raptors fans, this championship run means a whole lot more than just a championship ring – and the Raptors represent a whole lot more to Canada than just a basketball team – the Raptors are Canada’s basketball team.

Raptors fans wear their pride on their sleeve and the team is easily the most talked about topic in Canadian sports right now. As a result, many Canadian brands want their piece of the pie and have taken part in ambush marketing efforts to cater to Raptors fans – arguably some of Canada’s most passionate.

From MKTG’s new Decoding Canada dataset, we know that 75% of Raptors fans have cared about their favourite team since they were a kid, in comparison to the 22% of sports fans as a whole. Furthermore, 78% of the people who identify as Raptors fans feel a great sense of pride in the performance of their favourite teams and athletes. Given that Raptors fans are some of the most passionate in Canada, it’s clear to see why brands would try to jump aboard the bandwagon to achieve positive brand recognition while the Raptors make history.

In this blog, we outline a few tactics that we’ve seen brands have implemented in their marketing efforts to reach Raptors fans, most of which have been on social given the high volume of conversations on social regarding the Raptors. With 56% of Canadian sports fans reaching for their phone at some point while watching TV (whether that’s once, or constantly throughout the game), it makes sense that many of these brands’ efforts are optimized for social.


Brands are integrating themselves in conversations that matter to Raptors Fans

Conversation #1: Will Kawhi Stay in Toronto?

Ask any Raptors fan the cause that they most care about and they will say that they want Kawhi Leonard to stay in Toronto. Given how Kawhi will enter free agency in June, Raptors fans are pleading and plotting for Kawhi to stay, and brands are taking notice. The Ka’Wine and Dine movement emerged around keeping Kawhi in Toronto, where businesses have jumped in and pledged to offer free services to Kawhi if he chooses to stay in Toronto. From small local restaurants, to big brands like Sleep Country and Kraft Dinner, even a multimillion dollar condo, several brands have jumped on the opportunity to leverage Kawhi’s likeness to their advantage.



Conversation #2: Kawhi Will Stay in Toronto, affirmed by the #HeStay Hashtag

Further to the Kawhi movement, the #HeStay hashtag is a conversation fans are having regarding whether or not Kawhi will stay in Toronto. Fuzzy Peaches injected themselves in this conversation with their #HeStay Instagram ad. For a candy that’s infamously only available in Canada, the tie-in is unmistakable.

Conversation #3: Pricy NBA Finals Tickets

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Another conversation fans are having on social is regarding the high price of NBA Finals tickets.  Tickets are getting increasingly harder to get as a fan - not only because they instantly sell out to bots and resellers, but the ticket prices alone have been in the thousands. Even before the playoff, 31% of Raptors fans agreed that that they’re going to fewer sporting events because ticket prices are too high. Brands who capitalize on this opportunity will yield high return on the investment of a pair of tickets. In fact, 69% of Raptors fans would engage with a sponsor to receive free tickets to a sporting event. Over the course of the Finals, there has been dozens of ticket giveaways from local brands on Instagram, but a few leveraged this opportunity to cleverly inject their brand in the trendy topic in a way that feels authentic or tied to the brand itself.

Meanwhile, Ikea and No Frills both cleverly poked fun at the high-price of tickets, using the opportunity to bring attention to their affordable seating solutions and food prices, respectively.

Ambush marketing efforts can come across as inauthentic and shallow

These Instagram ads from Pilot Coffee and Webers Grills were an attempt to insert themselves into the hype surrounding the Raptors and perhaps draw some traffic into their retail locations. Without any real tie to the property however, it’s easily interpreted as trying to force a connection with the Raptors when there really is none. The efforts that give back to fans will always resonate more highly than ones that have merely slapped on the Raptors logo.

Efforts from Raptors Sponsors reign supreme

While brands will always try to jump aboard a trending topic, these efforts will never be as impactful to fans as those from a true sponsor, partially because everyone is doing it and it isn’t differentiated, and partially because it can come across as inauthentic. Where was your support for the Raptors before we secured a playoff spot? Where were you when the odds were against us? These are the questions that fans pose to bandwagon fans, and bandwagon brands are not exempt from this criticism. Raptors fans are 54% more likely to feel better about companies that sponsor their favourite sports teams than the average Canadian. They’re also 24% more likely than the average Canadian to be more loyal to brands that sponsor their favourite teams. So while non-sponsors can engage with fans via shallow ambush marketing efforts, it’s the efforts from sponsors that resonate more heavily with fans.

By leveraging exclusive sponsorship assets, sponsor activations will always be more integrated and impactful than those from non-sponsors. Sponsors aren’t just joining the conversation about the Raptors, they’re part of the team. It is through their sponsorship dollars and support that the team can exist as it does. We’ve outlined a few efforts from Raptors sponsors below:

  • As Tangerine is the Official Bank of the Toronto Raptors, Tangerine leveraged its assets to award a Fan of the Game for each Raptors regular season home game. Tangerine was able to provide a once-in-a-lifetime experience that builds brand loyalty and affinity for their @TangerineHoops Instagram account, something a non-sponsor could never.

  • Sun Life has leveraged its jersey patch positioning to teach kids across Canada about type 2 diabetes prevention through its Sun Life Dunk for Diabetes program, leveraging program ambassadors Pascal Siakam and Fred Van Vleet – something a non-sponsor could never.

  • McDonalds continued it’s Beyond the Arch campaign to award fans with free fries each time the Raptors score 12 3-pointers or more – this successful effort has led to monstrous lines at McDonald’s locations the day following each game, successfully integrating itself into the Raptors’ performance and stat lines – something a non-sponsor could never.

Fans and brands alike will always jump aboard the bandwagon when a team is doing well. While it doesn’t really differentiate your brand long-term, it a short-term solution to drive some traffic to your brand’s social pages and retail locations. It would be bad business practice to ignore what is trending, so it can only be expected.  Regardless, at the end of the day, it’s the sponsors that claim the real brand affiliation with the audience’s passions.

This post featured data from MKTG’s Decoding research study – interested in learning more? Visit http://mktgagency.ca/decoding or send us an email at decodingcanada@mktg.com for more info.

Picks of the Week: May 17, 2019

Picks of the Week: May 17, 2019