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Volume 7 No. 149
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Canadian Tire Goes Behind The Red Door With Unique Activation

As a domestic sponsor of the Canadian Olympic Committee, retail giant Canadian Tire is not allowed to activate in Korea except for inside the Canada Olympic House. But inside the 13,000-square-foot hospitality venue, it’s making the most of technology and a bit of deception to connect its sponsored Olympians to home turf with its “Red Door” campaign.

Literally, it’s a red door.

It’s about 7 feet tall and painted bright red with a Canadian Tire logo in the corner of the house. Behind the door is a high-definition, full-length video screen and camera. A second “Red Door” is traveling across malls in Canada. When both sides are engaged, it creates a virtual life-like connection.

Canadian athlete Mirela Rahneva gets a surprise visit by her sister behind the red door.
Photo: COC Photo by Deb Ransom
Canadian athlete Mirela Rahneva gets a surprise visit by her sister behind the red door.
Photo: COC Photo by Deb Ransom
Canadian athlete Mirela Rahneva gets a surprise visit by her sister behind the red door.
Photo: COC Photo by Deb Ransom

Early Sunday morning after finishing 12th in her race the night before, skeleton athlete Mirela Rahneva was standing in front of the door, thinking she’d be speaking to contest-winning children.

But she opened the door and her sister, Antonia, and a big group of family and friends were on the other side in an Ottawa Mall. Nearly speechless, she cried as she exchanged good wishes with her loved ones and promised she’d be home soon.

Meanwhile, Canadian Tire cameras were capturing all of it, to be used in social media campaigns and paid Facebook posts.

“We’re not a high-performance brand, and we didn’t want to play in the same place and always talk about Gold Medals and the hyper-competitive part of the Olympics,” said Canadian Tire spokesperson Julia Wilkinson. “We’re more about Olympic values and all of the people who come together and help them get there.”

They’ve been pleased with the results, Wilkinson said. An earlier surprise virtual encounter between four-time Gold Medal women’s hockey player Hayley Wickenheiser and the Azmi sisters, a group of five Toronto sisters who play ball hockey in hijabs, generated 5.2 million impressions in two days. It has knock-on effects, too -- snowboarder Mark McMorris thanked Canadian Tire on Twitter with the branded hashtag #Weallplayforcanada, where his video got another 36,000 views through Monday.

The “Red Door” concept started in Rio, where because of the narrow one-hour time difference, Canadian Tire simply left the door open during busy times in Canadian malls and the Canada Olympic House. But a set-up encounter between Gold Medal gymnast Rosie MacLennan and her grandmother was a breakout hit there, and with the 14-hour time difference in Pyeongchang, the company decided to make them all specific meetings this year.

The deal also involves fellow COC sponsor Cadillac Fairview, a property management company that owns the malls where the domestic red doors are placed. Wondermakr and Weber Shandwick helped develop and promote the concept. Canadian Tire’s contract with the COC runs through '20.