The year 2010 was a game-changer for Team Canada. The Van­cou­ver Win­ter Olympics yielded more gold medals than any other games and the whole coun­try was burst­ing with na­tional pride. In con­trast, the team’s iden­tity was a bit of a let-down. De­signed in the 1990s, the logo fea­tured an elab­o­rate torch mo­tif with fid­dly bilin­gual text that was com­pli­cated to em­broi­der or repli­cate dig­i­tally. Fur­ther­more, the ma­jor­ity of the Cana­dian Olympic Com­mit­tee’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions cen­tred around the bu­reau­cracy of the or­gan­i­sa­tion – with an image li­brary of dull images of din­ners and hand­shakes and no em­pha­sis on the ex­cit­ing part: the ath­letes.

Con­vinc­ing the Cana­dian Olympic Com­mit­tee (COC) to dra­mat­i­cally sim­plify its brand, Hulse & Dur­rell stripped back the mar­que to the bare min­i­mum and cre­ated an “in­stant clas­sic” fea­tur­ing a maple leaf mo­tif (a sym­bol first used by the Cana­dian Olympic team 50 years be­fore it made an ap­pear­ance on the coun­try’s flag) with Olympic rings sur­rounded by a car­touche. This formed a base for ad­di­tion it­er­a­tions – for ex­am­ple for the foun­da­tion or hall of fame – which im­proved con­sis­tency through­out. “The logo was so suc­cess­ful be­cause it was so sim­ple. It looks like the sort of thing any­one could have done, and felt like it had been there for­ever,” says Hulse & Dur­rell part­ner Greg Dur­rell.

Not only did the sim­pli­fied mar­que have Nike or Ap­ple-like ku­dos, sug­gests Dur­rell, it was ideal for use ev­ery­where from Twit­ter to mer­chan­dise and TV. The re­brand also in­spired a strate­gic shift to tell the im­pas­sioned sto­ries of ath­letes. The #wearewin­ter cam­paign, for ex­am­ple, likened Cana­dian en­durance of the cold cli­mate to the coun­try’s icy tenac­ity in sport. The re­sult dra­mat­i­cally en­riched its mar­ket­ing and spon­sor­ship po­ten­tial, and COC won new part­ners such as Adi­das, BMW, Oak­ley and Cana­dian Tire. “Team Canada be­came more of a life­style brand, which al­lowed it to ap­peal to out­liers,” says part­ner Ben Hulse. Dur­rell adds: “It’s also about aes­thet­ics. At the end of the day, what the COC is sell­ing is their logo locked down next to the part­ner logo, and if their logo looks great, then it makes the part­ner logo look great.”

“When part­ners have done their own ad­ver­tis­ing with our ath­letes, they’ve seen im­prove­ment in their brand affin­ity scores,” says COC chief mar­ket­ing of­fi­cer Derek Kent. “Why in­vest with the Cana­dian Olympic Team? Be­cause that in­vest­ment will pay div­i­dends in terms of brand eq­uity health and con­sumer pur­chase con­sid­er­a­tions. It’s the holy grail.”

It’s also a strat­egy that’s paid off. Not only is Team Canada the most recog­nis­able Olympic team in the world (with a recog­ni­tion of 81 per cent – 12 points higher than the next team down), its so­cial me­dia reach has grown by 580 per cent in the past four years and the Cana­dian Olympic Foun­da­tion now raises $9m an­nu­ally.

By strip­ping The Cana­dian Olympic Team’s once fussy logo right back to its es­sen­tial el­e­ments, Hulse & Dur­rell pre­pared the or­gan­i­sa­tion for a huge mer­chan­dise and ad­ver­tis­ing push that cap­tured the na­tion’s pride as well as the at­ten­tion of spon­sors.


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