Raptors Embrace Canada … and Brand Community Building

When Tim Leiweke joined MLSE he made the proclamation that if the Toronto Raptors were going to grow and become more successful financially, they needed to become Canada’s Team.

Last spring, as the Raptors moved toward a playoff berth that electrified the fanbase and organization, the team took a giant step forward in embracing that Canada-wide vision with their “We The North” campaign.

Toronto Raptors Le Nord C'est Nous t-shirtPut together by Sid Lee (with a rumoured assist by brand ambassador, Drake) We The North ads took over TV and internet screens as well as billboards, posters, print, and t-shirts showing basketball fans that the team was theirs, from Coast to Coast, and in two languages.

While the ads were well produced and visually stunning, in the end they were designed to do one thing: Take ownership of Canada (as per Timmy Ho’s) and, most importantly, build the brand community.

The Raptors now have an online community of over 1,275,000 on Facebook, 545,000 on Twitter, and nearly 175,000 on Instagram, as well as 19,800 fans in the seats for every home game. Those numbers are only expected to grow during the 2014-15, 20th anniversary season. But they may have to stuff a few more seats into the ACC.

Blade has pioneered building brand communities since 1991. We know that keeping your focus on seeing your brand as a “community building opportunity” is motivating, sustainable and profitable.

In house, we have built numerous brand communities from condo developers to OTC, from craft beer to dog treats. Okay we ain’t Sid Lee. Hell, we didn’t even get a call to talk about the Raptor’s brand. But just for reference, take a client we are proud to work with: Benzagel Canada. (Click to see our Benzagel Case Study)

Through social media campaigns, digital ads and channel marketing, we have helped take a brand that was on the verge of disappearing from the market and turned it a multi-million dollar franchise that has expanded year after year.

Benzagel-DAY OF BLOG POST GIF.Through contesting, guest bloggers, professionally sourced Q&A posts, and content and conversations that relate to the interests of the target demographic, Benzagel’s brand community has grown in numbers and engagement, with a trajectory trending upward as 2015 approaches, with new content and engagement strategies planned.

Blade knows that growing a brand’s community is the proven way to ensure success over the long term. BUT … delivering on your promises is the glue that binds the community together

With the Raptors prepping for tip-off, let’s hope the team makes us all proud to be “We The North” by winning and keeping us connected to growing and vibrant brand community.

Toronto Raptors We The North Fans


Wayne S. Roberts

The Globe and Mail calls Wayne S. Roberts "an ad industry provocateur." Maybe its because he's never seen the point of playing by the ad game rules that place awards above results, while offering spec work instead of real value to win accounts. Throughout his career, Wayne has maintained a defiantly independent streak characterized by his insistence that agencies must be honest, direct and passionately invested in their clients' success. His pioneering work in espousing the brand community perspective has been a touchstone of his belief that branding is more than just logos, websites and ad campaigns; it is the fundamental way human beings connect with each other to create communities and launch movements that have changed our world.

Wayne S. Roberts has 52 posts and counting. See all posts by Wayne S. Roberts

Wayne S. Roberts