How 12 Canadian Marketing Executives Are Navigating Through Uncertainty

Updated: Aug 6, 2020

2020 truly has been a transformative year with a global pandemic, economic recession, and social issues coming to light. Now more than ever marketers are finding themselves in a challenging position to pivot and adapt to this ever-changing landscape. Given this unprecedented year, The Sponsorship Space connected with 12 marketing and sponsorship leaders across Canada in multiple organizations to get their take on what they’re doing to adjust and the trends they foresee in the future by asking them to respond to the two questions below:

Question #1: How has your company adapted to what's happening in the world?

Question #2: What are some trends you are watching & predicting heading into a post-COVID world?


#1: These unprecedented times have definitely presented challenges, however they have also been a catalyst to change how we think about things like how we deliver content to consumers, how we engage with people and meet them where they are today, as well as how we redefine our processes to become more agile. The pandemic forced us to relook at our back-half plans in the context of the current environment, through the lens of the consumer mindset today and re-write a much stronger, more consumer-centric marketing plan.

#2: There are many trends that are rising to the top and other new ones that are emerging. The economic downturn and its effect on consumer discretionary spend is obviously one that we are monitoring closely in retail. As consumers focus spend on needs vs. wants, we need to understand the value equation more than ever. Specific to fashion retail, I believe we will see consumers spending less on fast fashion and turning more to buying timeless, quality wardrobe pieces that transcend multiple seasons. Another trend that has accelerated is the shift to e-commerce as a primary channel. We saw a dramatic shift of consumers that traditionally shopped bricks and mortar move to online purchases through COVID. Now more than ever, we need to ensure that our online experience matches our in-store experience, including things like figuring out how to create event experiences virtually that were traditionally held live in-store.


#1: We continue to adapt every day. In Canada, we’re focused on engaging our fans – notably, we just launched a celebration of Vince Carter’s career with a campaign called “Thank you Vince”. His record-breaking career was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic and we want to give fans the chance to say goodbye the right way. The campaign will be supported via NBA media – to learn more visit nba.com/vince.

More broadly, we used the hiatus to test and release a lot of new content including The Last Dance on ESPN and Netflix, a new series of #NBATogether programming including interviews with Ernie Johnson and discussions around social justice with Caron Butler. The WNBA executed the first virtual draft and two of our network partners have developed documentaries covering NBA athletes that will be released this season.

#2: As so much of the world adopted delivery services during the height of the pandemic, at the same time we’re seeing this drive to support local businesses, so I see more localized collaborations for licensed goods, for example. The movement for social justice, and the drive to create equal opportunities for Black or Afro-Canadians will continue with many corporations like ours, looking at what we can do to ensure we’re providing opportunity and supporting career growth. And, to the extent that people remain cut off from large gatherings, I think there’s a real opportunity to look at digital experiences and take them to the next level. Customer behaviours have changed as a result of the pandemic, people are now willing to join a remote panel or experience for more than an hour online. With any behaviour change, there lies opportunity and I’m excited to see the different ways brands and properties experiment in this space.


#1: REVXM was launched on June 1st, in the early days of the pandemic. The formulation of REVXM and the vision was conceived in February and early March, almost pre-Covid, so we were adjusting the strategy literally in "real-time" prior to June 1. That said, REVXM was launched with themes like innovation, virtual, digital and "new normal" in our DNA. We did not really have to adapt or pivot, if you will, as much as stay nimble and have an open mind to how the world was adjusting and evolving quickly. It was much easier to go from zero to hundred than 100 to zero and then try to regain momentum.

#2: What is the saying... "necessity is the mother of invention"? Well that has never been more true in modern times than right now. Some of the changes and trends and innovation we are seeing now has been exposed out of need but was created pre-Covid. And some will explode out of this and some trends will replace things and ideals that maybe should have been replaced decades ago.

- Obviously the "second-screen" phenomenon is trending. This has also been compounded in pro-sports, for example, with no fans in venues. Digital/social interaction, gaming, real-time betting are changing behaviour but also in how broadcasts and partnerships are being delivered.

- What we support and we invest in has also changed quite quickly. Social inequality and cause related platforms are finally at the forefront and I personally hope this is not just a trend but REAL and permanent change. How cool is it to see "Black Lives Matter" on an NBA court, for example.

- Our clients and partners are also being forced to be more creative with how to replace physical interactions and conversations with digital or hybrid models. My opinion is that this trend will not do a 180. You can never really replace physical interaction, but tech and innovation, like AI and AR has allowed us to do it much more efficiently, at scale and with far better precision when it comes to targeting.

- Obviously, all of us want to get back to "normal" as quickly as possible, but how we consume, how we watch, how we interact has changed forever and some would argue that change is always for the better.


#1: The initial priority for Tangerine was to work closely with the various levels of government to establish important hardship programs for our existing client base. COVID had tremendous implications on people’s economic security, either due to loss of employment, significant decreases in cash flow, portfolio value, etc. We have always prided ourselves on putting our customers at the forefront of decision making as they, along with our employees are the lifeblood of the bank. Once these initiatives (among other COVID related topics) were rolled out through consistent and empathetic communications, we collectively worked to produce a new campaign spot that promoted a message of hope and optimism, grounded in truth and the role Tangerine plays in our client’s lives.

Specifically, as to how the changing landscape challenged our partnership vertical, we needed to re-examine our strategy of how we’ve historically been engaging with fans of our various sponsorship investments and update/pivot to reflect the realities of the current environment. It was essential to have candid conversations with rights holders about the realities of our business due to COVID and equally as important, truly understand the potential impact to theirs. Tangerine views each investment as a real partnership, which means that all parties are motivated to assist each other whenever possible to ensure a mutually beneficial relationship where everyone wins (even in the toughest of circumstances).

#2: Every organization is being forced to evolve their business models due to the impact of COVID. Through hardship will come innovation and new opportunities for meaningful engagement. With empty stadiums and arenas becoming the norm (at least in the short term), additional emphasis and focus will be placed on establishing digital fan connections that scale. This had already been a huge area of focus for Tangerine pre-COVID, but the significance has grown exponentially. The power of digital will inevitably unlock key behaviours, preferences and personalization opportunities through data that can be applied on top of our existing customer insights - leading to smarter data driven decision making across the bank. Discretionary marketing spends are likely going to be scrutinized in the interim based on the economic landscape, so we’ll need to be prescriptive, focused and scientific in how we calculate ROI for our respective organizations.

We will continue to monitor global trends, digital innovation and observe best practices across the world of sports and entertainment that can be methodically applied to our core business/partnership objectives. I anticipate the world of sponsorship will look incredibly different 3-5 years down the road, look no further than what emerged from the 2008 Financial Crisis. It’s our responsibility as sponsorship professionals to be on top (or in some cases, ahead) of these trends and to embrace an agility model that enables Tangerine to react and apply these strategies in real time.