An Immersive Event 150 Years in the Making

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Madeleine Bart
Madeleine Bart

Marketing Manager

Freeman Audio Visual Canada

Canada celebrates its sesquicentennial anniversary with a yearlong marketing bonanza

It’s no small feat making it to 150, even for a nation, and in 2017 Canada celebrates this milestone on July 1, Canada Day, with festivities lasting throughout the year. The nation not only celebrates by hosting engaging activities across four seasons, but by showing the world its promotional prowess that would wow even the most seasoned brand experience veteran. Put another way: Canada’s history provides many remarkable lessons to the world; the 150th anniversary presents many lessons marketers should heed, as both governments and brands unite to create unforgettable campaigns and events.

O Canada…show us!

Citizens unite, eh

What better way to celebrate a nation than getting the population involved? This vibe is the idea of the 150 Ambassadors program, where 150 citizens from across the country, and even the globe, were chosen as trendsetters and influencers promoting Canadian values on social media and in various activities from sea to sea. They are the cool, maple syrup version of the Sparta 300!

Another great initiative of unity is Canada 150 with celebrations across the country. From arts and culture festivals to fireworks, exhibitions, and sporting events, Canada comes together to toast its 150th birthday on Canada Day and beyond. What’s more, Canadians are being encouraged to explore their own country during all these activities with free admission to all Parks Canada locations — and why not? Lonely Planet named Canada its number one country to visit in 2017, partially due to the year-long revelry. And it’s only early summer!

Truly including the population would mean involving them in the marketing mix, wouldn’t it? That already happened, with a nationwide competition for students to design the official logo of the sesquicentennial celebration. The winner was Ariana Mari Cuvin, second year global business and digital arts student at the University of Waterloo (and check out the cool logo at the link).

On a particularly poignant and notable level, the Imagine a Canada Initiative invited young people to participate in a nationwide competition to envision the future of Canada through the lens of reconciliation — all via works of poetry, art, film, video, or essays. Regardless of the winner, the emphasis is that healing and creativity should always be part of the national discourse.

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Brands for Canadian branding

Of course, the private sector got into the civic celebration with many breathtaking campaigns, all to celebrate and promote Canadian cultural heritage.

For example, Beau’s Brewery — the official beer sponsor of the capital’s anniversary celebration, Ottawa 2017 — leveraged various locations across the country to create a special “150 series” and is releasing a new craft beer every month of 2017. Each beer honors a different region and distinct aspect of Canada. Did we mention it’s only the end of June?

On a more sober yet still patriotic angle, Hudson Bay Company released a limited edition Grand Portage Collection of souvenirs and merchandise. The proceeds supported the Great Trail project — the world’s longest trail system — in the goal of bringing Canadians together through exploring and connecting the country.

Ramping up the socially conscious vibe, Royal Bank Canada created the #Make150Count campaign, giving away $150 to youth around the country but challenging them to do something positive in their community. Now, on a slightly more humorous but still social level, apparel brand Roots gave us its “Nice” campaign for the anniversary celebration. This was meant to expand on the stereotype of Canadians being nice — from the polite “nice” of Mounties or the funny “nice” of John Candy, to the disruptive “nice” of an activist/environmentalist attitude the country should be known for, too. Beyond video and ads, Roots held a “Canada’s Nicest Person” contest where it will choose an individual who makes a positive impact on their community. Not surprisingly, the winner gets $10,000 but must give it to a charity of his or her choice. 

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Celebrating with digital

The 150 Ambassador program provides #wherewillyoucelebrate campaign encouraging Canadians to post on social media where they'll be celebrating Canada Day (close to a “nice” Beau’s Brewery, we hope). Of course, you can visit @canada150 on Twitter for the official account of Canada 150, which also has Facebook and Instagram accounts.

In case you’re wondering, there is an official mobile app, created by passport2017. It’s free to download and grants basically every commemoration for the 150th anniversary.

True North all year round

During the yearlong celebration, Canada Day will be chock full of merriment across the country — from strongman competitions in Regina to orchestras in Ottawa — and certainly a bevy of beer gardens, firework displays, and music festivals. It’s certainly wonderful to see Prince Charles and his wife Camilla making a royal visit to help observe the nation’s important birthday.

The exact revelry depends on the region and city, but be sure to know that every sense will be stimulated for Canadians on July 1, while the nation commemorates bringing higher senses (and reason) to the world with its rich history, culture, and marketing. At 150, she’s already made a difference, and is just getting started!

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