In 2022, Canadian Tire (CT) launched its new brand purpose: We Are Here to Make Life in Canada Better. 2022 also marked CT’s 100th Birthday (CT100), setting the stage for the Canadian Tire Christmas Trail (Trail) to return for a third season, giving Canadians the Christmas of the Century. Born from a desire to safely bring the magic of Christmas to Canadians during the pandemic in 2020, the immersive, interactive drive-along Christmas experience returned in 2022 with a new purpose, a new look and a new strategy.
The holiday season is a key moment for all retail brands, but as CT has staked its claim as Canada’s Christmas Store, the holiday season presents a clear business need to defend this position. 2022 also presented the unique opportunity to further raise awareness of CT100 by using the Trail as the exclamation point to conclude the year-long momentous celebration, all while fighting to maintain the relevance of a drive-through experience in a post pandemic world.
Guests who attended the Trail in 2021 were invited to complete a post-event survey. The survey provided the below first-person data:
- 68% said the Trail increased their perception of CT as Canada’s Christmas Store
- 91% would attend the Trail again
- 82% attended the Trail for the first-time
This data indicated a prevailing consumer appetite to attend the Trail, but most of all, it reaffirmed the Trail’s ability to deliver on the primary campaign objective – build overall brand affinity and defend CT’s position as Canada’s Christmas Store.
CT developed a comprehensive earned media strategy to drive awareness of the Trail event itself, while reinforcing CT’s position as Canada’s Christmas Store leading up to and during the peak holiday season. In a post-pandemic world where the relevance of a drive-through event had potential to decrease, it was imperative that media contacts were provided with exclusive information and on-site access to enhance the potential for a high volume of quality media coverage.
CT executed the below strategic tactics to drive earned media opportunities:
New Ticketing Strategy
- The Trail was open to the public from November 12th to December 23rd.
- To incentivize media to cover the Trail leading up to and during the Trail, CT shifted the 2022 registration strategy to bi-weekly ticket block releases. This provided an additional hook for media to cover the event throughout the holiday season.
Embargoed Media Outreach
- Based on a media audit of when media typically begin covering holiday events, CT distributed an embargo pitch in October to a select group of top tier media to generate awareness before the first ticket release date.
- Engaging media early, before competing holiday events, resulted in more dedicated feature articles wherein the Trail was the focus as opposed to the holiday event roundup pieces that appeared later in the season.
- This early outreach also allowed for the advance coordination of high value, on-site broadcast coverage throughout the event. These included Breakfast Television and CP24 Breakfast live-eyes that promoted upcoming ticket release dates and included CT spokesperson interviews.
Media Preview Nights
- Like in previous years, media and influencers were invited to two exclusive preview nights before the Trail opened to the public. This year, CT adjusted the preview event timing from the first week of November to the second week to improve seasonal relevance and account for the increase in competing events.
- The preview event included multiple gifting moments and unique experiences to help reinforce positive relationships with media contacts who would go on to cover the event throughout the season.
- The 2022 strategy evolved to include more registration timeslots to accommodate on-site media opportunities resulting in live broadcast hits with CBC Toronto, CityNews, Fairchild TV and CityNews680 (Radio).
Ongoing Media Outreach
- The earned media outreach strategy culminated with a “Last Call” pitch ahead of the final ticket release date. This allowed for the generation of media coverage later in the peak holiday season, a time period when coverage has dwindled in previous years.
- Arrangements were made to accommodate media requests to attend the Trail to encourage continued feature coverage and holiday event roundups.
The Trail achieved six consecutive weeks of ticket sell-outs due in large part to awareness generated by top tier earned media coverage. The earned media strategy and the activation itself successfully reinforced CT’s brand purpose and defended its position as Canada’s Christmas Store. This can be accurately measured based on the below media campaign performance indicators and consumer survey responses.
Build brand affinity and defend Canadian Tire’s position as Canada’s Christmas Store:
- 100% of media coverage included a Canadian Tire mention;
- 94% of people are extremely likely to recommend the Trail;
- 69% stated the Trail increased their perception of Canadian Tire as Canada’s Christmas Store;
- 88% would attend the Trail again.
Raise awareness of CT100 while reinforcing its brand purpose of Making Life in Canada Better:
- 36 pieces of earned media and organic influencer content included a CT100 callout;
- 49% learned about CT100 at the Trail despite year-long CT100 programming;
- $177K donated to Jumpstart (10% increase YoY);
Maintain the Trail’s relevance in its third year while increasing public awareness and attendance:
Video for The Canadian Tire Christmas Trail
- 86 pieces of Trail standalone feature media coverage (95% increase YoY);
- 6 CT spokesperson interviews (300% increase YoY)
- 27K+ guests visited the Trail (14% increase YoY);
- 71% of guests attended the Trail for the first time.