HSBC Canada Sevens Part 2. Building Brand Love to Fill the Stadium & the Streets

Auburn Sigurdson web101 Auburn Sigurdson

Director, Brand & Strategy

#ICYM click here for part one of our story with HSBC Canada sevens. After building the bid to successfully bring the tournament to Vancouver and Langford, TORQUE Strategies’ role in the mix is now focused on building a strategy that engages fans from day one, right through to the in-stadium experience – creating a consumer loop that breeds loyalty and brand love for the long term. This fantastic challenge includes building marketing plans, ticket sales strategies, communications plans, supporting the development of annual creative campaigns (alongside exceptional local creatives like Hyphen Communications, Will Creative and Victory Creative), and activating the strategies with consumer engagement tactics. Every aspect of our creativity, experience and acumen is tested on this client daily – a challenge that we relish as a team of creative freaks and data geeks!

Over the years, this project and our campaigns have evolved.


In year one, we focused on the international spectacle and the hard hitting nature of the sport, targeting rugby fans and their sphere of influence. The creative produced by Hyphen Communications featured Godzilla sized athletes diving over iconic bridges and knocking over some of Vancouver’s most recognizable buildings.


In year two, we recognized the greatest growth opportunity lied in a relatively untapped audience that we coined “entertainment seekers”. The strategy targeted people who love to get out, be social and subscribe to a “work hard play hard” way of life. We knew the rugby loyalists would come as long as the experience kept the world class athletes at the forefront – so we set out to acquire Vancouver’s party people.

Partnering in year two with Will Creative, the tournament’s brand story evolved, building parallels between the hard hitting play on the field, and the “play hard” energy in the stands with the hero slogan “Everybody Plays Hard”. The creative contrasted Team Canada’s impressive athletes in hero poses, flanked by real fans geared up in “Fancy Dress” garb. Complementing the slogan, the headline “No Mercy, No Shame” helped showcase the ridiculous hilarity this event brings along with it – a new sport culture not often seen in North America that fills the stadium with a fun, tongue in cheek vibe. Where else would you see grown men dressed as the tooth fairy alongside Olympic gold medallists so lightning fast you simply can’t blink for the full 14-minute game?


Further to the media campaign, TORQUE Strategies built several brand activations over the course of the ticket sales window, including a Halloween Takeover, which saw street teams connecting with “Entertainment Seekers” throughout the city on the festive October weekend engaging party-goers with branded chocolate treats in a Willy-Wonka style golden ticket contest. With over 5,000 chocolates doled out and several activations with our partners at The Roxy and Doolin’s Irish Pub – the connection between costumes and rugby was taking shape.

In the final week before the 2017 tournament, the TORQUE team built and launched a digital content strategy with the support of film gurus Victory Creative to build on the “Play Hard” theme featuring professional fan entertainer Cameron Hughes. Cameron took to the streets to rally Vancouverites and build buzz about the upcoming tournament. Each :60 second clip features a different theme, stoking energy and anticipation, and poking a little fun at everyone involved. With very little budget and limited promotion, these clips garnered incredible attention and shares as they were released daily in the lead up to kick off.

Putting some icing on the cake, tournament organizers flew Cameron back up to Vancouver to bring the fun to the fans in the stands – his energy, and dance moves, were electric.

To tie a bow on 2017, our film crew worked their magic to create a wrap video that hit social at the end of each day of the tournament, leveraging fans’ desire to spread a little fomo amongst their networks and relive a snapshot of the experience. The Sunday wrap video blew all other Canada Sevens social content out of the water in terms of views, share and reach – and provided fans an outlet to express their love for the event.

There is no question, HSBC Canada Sevens is building something very special here in Vancouver. With two years to go, and hopefully many more beyond, tournament organizers have their sights set to become one of the must-visit tour stops alongside London, Dubai and the infamous Hong Kong Sevens. Sponsors are investing, athletes are raving, and fans are clamouring to get their early bird shot at tickets for next year. With momentum on our side, there is no time to sit back and enjoy the glow, so we tread on with a ladder in hand to raise the bar once again for 2018.