Case Study: The Toronto Raptors Build Brand Community with #WeTheNorth

prizingAlthough I have been in the marketing game for many years, I can count on one hand how many times the term “brand community” has come up in conversation. All of that changed earlier this year, when the Toronto Raptors were in the NBA playoffs for the first time since 2008. To celebrate, and promote Raptors as Canada’s Team, the team rebranded and launched “We the North” — a campaign that aimed to showcase the Raptors, Toronto, and Canada, in a way that NBA fans have been unfamiliar with.

Think back to spring – the Jays were off to a weak start, and Canada only had one team in the NHL playoffs. Meanwhile, the Raptors were playing on point and Sid Lee saw an opportunity to take the city, and the country, by the throat and they redefined a brand.

Before, the Raptors had been labeled as NBA outsiders, partly because they are the only NBA team in Canada, #WeTheNorth, launched by Sid Lee, flipped the public’s perception of the Raptors from negative to positive. The campaign launched with success, and embraced the things that have always made the Raptors outsiders – “We are the North side, a territory all our own. If that makes us outsiders, we’re in.”

Redefining what it Means to be a Canadian Basketball Fan

The first campaign video was released on social networks in the days leading up to the first playoff game on April 19th. Drake and Justin Bieber both retweeted the video, and in two days the video had 500, 000 views. That was the tipping point.

Following the launch, the Raptors transformed from an irrelevant squad, to one that won the Atlantic Division and secured them a spot in the playoffs for the first time since 2008. We The North is now every Raptors’ fan’s basketball mantra.

The Raptors truly built a successful brand community, by first understanding that the brand’s future community will be made up of a homogenous group of people with different wants and needs. By considering the diverse possibilities of who could be in this homogenous group, the brand is better situated to serve the various wants and needs of the community, and respond to the community more effectively. To that I say, well done Raptors, well done.

Please enjoy watching their campaign video:

What do you think of brand community building? Can you think of another brand that has successfully built a brand community aside from a sports team? What do you think has made these other brands successful within those communities? Share your thoughts in our comment section.


#WeAreOne: Overcoming Brand Fails


A company’s brand is built up over years and even decades, where carefully crafted marketing, long-standing traditions and thorough PR tactics ensure that an audience receives the messaging a brand wants them to. Unfortunately, it can take only one misstep by a brand – an off-hand comment or the release of a tasteless ad – to undo years of brand loyalty. And it is not easy to get back.

We’ve seen the stock for Canadian clothing company Lululemon continue to suffer since November 2014, after founder and chairman, Chip Wilson, made excuses for the deteriorating quality of the Lululemon exercise pants by saying that “some women’s bodies just don’t work for the pants”. Only after a very public outcry and rapidly growing distaste for the brand, did Wilson step down from his position at the helm of the company. His eventual apology, however, was directed more to Lululemon staff who had to “manage the brunt of his actions” as he indicated he was “very sad about the repercussions of his actions” although, at no point did he retract his statement or apologize to his customer base.

The most recent brand fail in the media in recent weeks has repercussions that affect more than just the immediate company. Released audio clips of racist comments made by the LA Clippers franchise owner, Donald Sterling, shook the faith of thousands of fans of not only the Clippers, but of the NBA as a whole.

It could have been an extremely dire situation for the entire league, if very important decisions were not made quickly with upfront and sincere honesty. Fortunately, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver addressed the league, the owners and the public very quickly with a decision to issue a lifetime ban on Sterling, a $2.5 million dollar fine, as well as urging the Board of Governors to force the sale of the team. Meanwhile, marketing for the Clippers took quick action in releasing a simple message, #WeAreOne on their website, a message that was picked up by other teams and truly resonated with fans across the country.

While the personal brand of Donald Sterling may never recover, fans of the LA Clippers and the NBA as a whole seem to be re-establishing trust with both brands as they separate Sterling’s comments with the values of the organizations. This brand fail was remedied by swift action, accepting responsibility and engaging the fan base.

What are some of the brand fails you remember most? How did they attempt to make things right with the public? I look forward to your thoughts below.