Sport Chek gets real-time with Olympic marketing

Retailer's content-focused strategy includes a war room in the CBC broadcast centre

Sport Chek has put its own spin on the Olympic motto “Faster, Higher, Stronger” with its latest marketing effort.

The retailer knew it wasn’t going to be stronger than the world’s largest corporations when it came to commanding share of voice at the Rio Games, so instead it opted to become faster. The result is a higher return on investment, with its stores experiencing double-digit sales increases since the start of the Games.

“This is when the advertising world is turning on the big machinery, with the Olympic sponsors pouring millions into the Games,” said Frederick Lecoq, senior vice-president of marketing at Sport Chek parent FGL Sports in Calgary. “As big as [we] may be in Canada, we’re not a global player.

“There’s no way I can compete with the CPG industry or the banking industry with my budget.”

Lecoq said the company’s priorities had shifted to maximizing its “share of mind” versus its “share of voice” at a time when TV viewers are being bombarded with ads. “We used to buy GRPs, but now we want to be part of the conversation,” said Lecoq, who said “share of mind” is a key driver of store traffic.

As part of its mobile-first approach to the Games, Sport Chek is creating a series of on-the-fly videos built around “marketing moments” that align with its #WhatItTakes brand platform.

The company has established a “war room” in the CBC broadcasting centre in Toronto that features a team comprised of a member of the FGL Sports content team, a CBC editor and representatives from its agencies TBWA\Chiat\Day New York and PR firm North Strategic.

The group is working together to identify key moments from the Olympic competition, and fashioning them into a series of videos – four in total – that will air throughout the Games.

The strategy enables Sport Chek to create timely marketing that will resonate with Canadians by focusing on key moments and breakout stars such as swimmer Penny Oleksiak, said Lecoq.

The retailer is also utilizing its five-person social media war room in Calgary to track online chatter and shape its marketing to reflect emerging narratives – such as the standout performance of the country’s female athletes.

Sports Chek’s first live “manifesto” debuted Wednesday, created from the first four days of Games competition. Using a script written and delivered by award-winning poet/spoken word artist Shane Koyczan, the spot takes viewers on a journey from what Lecoq described as “misery to brilliance.”

The real-time strategy also enables Sport Chek to constantly renew its advertising, providing a fresh experience for viewers who may get tired of seeing the same ads over and over as the Games progress.

“When consumers have seen the [same] creative 10 times, does that really work for your brand, or are you being perceived as noisy? You don’t want to be perceived as an overwhelming brand,” he said.

While marketers have traditionally focused on becoming a household brand – usually by placing TV at the centre of their strategy – Lecoq said Sport Chek’s objective was to become a “pocket brand” by employing a mobile-first approach.

Approximately 80% of Sport Chek’s Olympic marketing spend is being directed towards digital – up from 40% in the Sochi Games – with 60% dedicated to mobile only. A small portion of the media buy by Touché! is going towards a TV ad airing outside of standard commercial breaks during CBC’s prime time Games coverage.

While the CBC is the Games’ official broadcast partner, Lecoq said its value to Sport Chek is its vast library of content. “If you’re mobile-led, then what’s critical is the content,” he said. “It’s a new era in the advertiser/broadcaster relationship.”

Lecoq said earlier experiments with real-time marketing, specifically around the Toronto Raptors’ NBA playoff run, were a “dry run” to prepare the organization for the Olympics.

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