Agencies collaborate to make Sport Chek more inspiring

A look inside the "Your Better Starts Here" campaign

A look inside the “Your Better Starts Here” campaign

With a red marker and a dry erase board, Duncan Fulton, the chief marketing officer at FGL Sports Group, outlines Sport Chek’s new digital and brand strategies the way a coach preps his team before a big game.

A stick figure represents Sport Chek consumers (80% of which are under 45 and consume media digitally) followed by several arrows, boxes and even a dollar sign. The end result is a complicated series of scribbles. But to Fulton, it makes perfect sense. It’s a plan to completely overhaul a huge Canadian brand.

The sports equipment and apparel retailer was acquired a year ago by Canadian Tire for $771 million, but before the ink on the deal was even dry, Fulton hired Sid Lee as its creative AOR and then Toronto firm Sklar Wilton to conduct qualitative, quantitative and psychographic research. At Sid Lee, the account is led by Vito Piazza, the managing partner and vice-president of its Toronto office.

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Sid Lee to rebrand Sport Chek

Sid Lee, says Fulton, was very hands-on during the research process, even formulating some of the consumer questions. “I gave Sid Lee total access to Sklar Wilton even without me there,” he says. The process was so collaborative, says Fulton, he didn’t need to provide Sid Lee with a creative brief.

One of the big research takeaways was that Sport Chek has a diverse consumer base with a wide range of interests, including running, walking and baseball, to name a few. This begged the question: how does one brand connect with all of those people?

What connects all of these sports and activities, says Fulton, is the desire one feels to always be better. “Even if you’re 60 years old and going for a walk, you just want to feel better,” he says. “If you work out sometimes you just want to look better… There is always this notion of better.” From here, the “Your Better Starts Here” platform was born.

The brand needs to be more than just “a place for people to buy stuff,” says Fulton because people want to be inspired. “What customers told us is there’s a total lack of inspiration at retail these days,” he says. “Everything is so overproduced and so advertised that nothing is inspirational anymore.”

In August the retailer launched its first brand work featuring the tagline with a 60-second “anthem” that highlights a series of sports, including soccer, skiing, track, swimming and football. The commercial was shot at 2,000 frames per second to capture that very moment before “the better you” triumphs, says Fulton. Each sport featured in the commercial has been cut down into 15-second online pre-roll videos as well as full-page print ads and posters.

Fulton says 25% of Sport Chek’s total marketing budget is now dedicated to strictly promoting the brand with initiatives like the anthem spot, which is up from less than 5% previously. And television commercials will only promote the brand with exception of specific collections such as the Rebook Sidney Crosby collection.

This year Sport Chek decided to run all of its television creative from August to December, when the retailer makes two thirds of its money thanks to back-to-school, the start of hockey and the holiday season, says Fulton.

Throughout the year, Sport Chek is looking for new ways to up its digital game. The retailer is experimenting with Smart TVs and in-game ads in addition to the roughly $100,000 it spends per week on cost per click, cost per impression and banner ads.

Eventually, the digital focus will extend to ads in-store at display level. Sport Chek is already working with Transcontinental on a project called “The Vault” that will allow vendors to upload digital content that will be fed to screens inside the store. The idea is part of a larger store redesign that will roll out next year.

This article appears in the Sept. 10 issue of Marketing.

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