Advertising & Disability

Canadian Tire’s Hoop Dreams

When something goes viral it seems like everyone on the internet knows about it overnight, but sometimes going viral takes a little more time. This Canadian Tire TV commercial titled Wheels first aired during the Rio Olympics back in the summer and only recently has been taking social media by storm with more than 138 million views at the time of this posting.

Being blind and visually impaired, team sports were always a challenge for me and I avoided them. This commercial, though, shows how everyone can come together through sport.

The ad opens with some kids playing basketball outdoors and when the ball goes astray and it’s retrieved at the doorstep of a young boy in a wheelchair, the youth with the ball and the youth in the wheelchair look at each other. The boy in the wheelchair is initially perceived as unable to play. The scene changes to a new game with the boy in the wheelchair being invited to play and once he arrives at the court he sees the other youth sitting on makeshift wheelchairs allowing everyone to join in, bringing the campaign’s tagline We All Play For Canada to life.

While this ad is reminiscent of a Guinness commercial that featured wheelchair basketball, for me Canadian Tire’s is more significant because educating tolerance, inclusion and community needs to start with youth.

Eva Salem, Vice President, Marketing, Canadian Tire Retail shared that “At Canadian Tire, inclusion and diversity are values core to our brand, and encompassing disabilities into our marketing strategy allows us to showcase and celebrate a broader and therefore more accurate scope of people’s differences. “We All Play for Canada” is more than a campaign slogan; it is a call to action for all Canadians, including those with disabilities.” 

In answers below, Salem shares more insight into the brand’s messages and the recent momentum the spot has gained.

What was the inspiration behind this creative campaign?

“Sport has been a part of Canadian Tire’s DNA for 95 years and we have a long-standing commitment to celebrate, inspire, and encourage play. Sport has the power to bring communities together, and promotes the values Canadians share, chief among those being inclusivity.

The creative concept behind Wheels, specifically, was to tell small, human stories that imagine a better, more inclusive world. Kids, who aren’t caught up in today’s politics, seemed like the perfect ones to deliver the message – but only if the stories felt authentic. It started with the casting of Tai – our hero /lead actor in the ad. From there, we collaborated with Rick Hansen, a Canadian Paralympian and global icon in the fight to create a barrier free society for those with disabilities.”

Is this ad part of a larger campaign featuring diversity and inclusion?

“Wheels is part of a three-ad Olympic campaign under Canadian Tire’s “We All Play for Canada” brand platform that celebrates intrinsically Canadian values like sportsmanship, diversity and inclusivity. The Outsider, the second ad in the campaign series, also highlights Canadians’ inclusive spirit. Although the campaign was originally developed for the Olympics, its message is universal. Issues of inclusion and national unity are incredibly timely right now, both in Canada and abroad – the message holds true for people beyond sport.

This was an integrated campaign and inclusivity was the message we drove through every channel. We worked with Olympians and Paralympians to custom design our campaign logo and we featured those athletes in transit, OOH, in-store and digital display. And we worked with CBC, Canada’s Official Olympics Games broadcaster, to identify stories of inclusivity in real-time which we shared across social media. We did not explicitly use images from our ‘Wheels’ TV commercial in every medium, but all of our messages connected back to the common theme of inclusivity. ”

Who was the ad agency / creative team and marketing team at Canadian Tire involved in developing this spot?

The Canadian Tire strategic marketing team worked with Cleansheet Communications to develop a series of three ads for the 2016 Rio Olympics and Paralympics. The concept for Wheels was developed by Neil McOstrich, Cleansheet’s co-founder and Chief Storyteller, and Associate Creative Director Scott Shymko.

Tai, the lead actor, is 13 years old and very involved in his community, balancing his budding acting career with his work as an ambassador for Holland Bloorview Children’s Hospital.

The campaign launched on July 15th and introduced ‘Wheels’, ‘Outsider’ and our social media program on August 5th during the Rio Opening Ceremonies.

What response have you had from your customers?

“The overall Olympic campaign was incredibly successful. Wheels and Outsider were ranked the #1 and #2 “most enjoyed ads”, respectively, among all Olympics broadcast ads in Canada. Positive opinion regarding Canadian Tire increased +13% among consumers aware of Canadian Tire’s Canadian Olympic Committee sponsorship (Charlton Research Focus on 2016 Rio Olympic Sponsorship)

Fast forward six months, and the international response to Wheels has been incredibly positive, with much praise for the ad itself and the Canadian values it highlights, including inclusiveness and doing the right thing. Canadians, in turn, are responding with pride, because this ad does more than resonate with them: it reflects them.”

Are there corporate citizenship efforts that this campaign ties into?

“This campaign ties into values core to the Canadian Tire Corporation as a whole. Canadian Tire is committed to removing the barriers that prevent kids from being able to get in the game, and in 2005, we started Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities. Jumpstart is a national charity that helps kids from families in financial need participate in organized sport and physical activity by helping to cover the costs associated with registration, equipment, and even transportation. Since inception, we have helped more than 1.3 million kids across Canada enrol in more than 70 different activities, including parasports for children living with disabilities. Specifically, The Parasport Fund is a joint program between Jumpstart and the Canadian Paralympic Committee that supports and promotes grassroots para-athlete development for children in financial need.”

Hopefully we’ll see more from Canadian Tire in the future!