We are pitching on a music program right now, perhaps against some of my loyal readers, and I was asked by my staff to provide a favourite music memory.

Mine was J. Giles Band-inspired. Yes, back in grade 10, some girl named Beth dumped my (then) skinny behind, for my best friend Bill. True story. I then proceeded to play the aforementioned “Love Stinks” on my SEARS brand stereo (yes, true story) about twenty times a day for nearly a month. My poor dad threatened to shut off the power if he heard that same beat one more time during his morning coffee.

Love doesn’t actually stink. But jealousy, in a grade 10 sort of way, certainly does.

Yesterday at the Sponsorship Marketing Council of Canada Breakfast Forum, I talked about some of my current jealousies. Specifically, sponsorship programs that I have seen recently, of which I had NO part in, but wish I did.

I entitled it 11 Things That Made Me Jealous in 2011, but really it could have been entitled 11 Partnerships I Loved. Of course, that would not have been quite accurate, because in the end I couldn’t get the list down to less than twelve.

So pardon the last minute poetic license, but maybe it should be called 12 Ideas to Use in Your 2012 Planning. Regardless of the name, I decided to share them with you in my blog today because I have received quite a few requests over the last few days for the ‘slides.’ Well sorry, the slides only have four to six words on them each… but if you really, really, really want them – email me. And post a NICE comment on this website.


Getting down to twelve was tough. Candidly, when I first conceived of the idea I was pretty excited. Then the announcement went out and I started receiving emails of this sort: “Of course, my program will be included, correct Mr. Harrison?!” Suddenly I panicked. I had picked this topic so nobody would be offended. How could the 11 stakeholders in the 11 programs I praise be offended? That was short-sighted on my part, because the one thousand I don’t mention could be irate!

So I started a systematic process of choosing. I wanted to ensure fair geographic balance, and also balance of the types of partnership. I had implied this was going to be about 2011 deals, but I wanted to mention some of my all-time favourites, like Kraft Hockeyville and anything to do with the Calgary Stampede. Finally, I said screw it. It’s my topic. It’s my time and energy going into the presentation. It’s my blog. This list will be like almost all of my thoughts. Off the cuff. Sorta.

So the Mark Harrison off-the-cuff-list wound up being 23! The aforementioned Hockeyville and Stampede were on it, but slipped off the final list only because I wanted to be more newsworthy. But I love them both. Hockeyville is a gold standard and I praise its custodians for keeping it alive and amazing year after year.

So here is my list. I love it. Am interested to see if you do. Be forewarned, if you work for me or with me… you will hear a lot more about these.

Shopppers Drug Mart Weekend to End Womens Cancer Vendor integration. Besides the incredible fit between sponsor and cause, I absolutely love how Shoppers gets incredible vendor buy-in demonstrated through full-page print ads and challenges from senior staff. If you think this is as simple as putting the squeeze on some desperate suppliers, you haven’t tried to do it. For a massive retailer, just the internal mechanisms of getting this sort of program organized is daunting enough, let alone selling it to your vendors. I have retail clients, I know. Kudos to Shoppers and CauseForce. This year’s events in five cities across Canada raised over  $38 million.

    Wrigley and CoachellaThe democratization of music. It wasn’t more than twelve months ago I thought Twitter was a ridiculous tool. But once I started to follow the important sources in my life… holy cow. On overseas trips, I love how easy it is to consume the news via Twitter. Now it has proven itself as a sponsorship activation platform. Partnering with Wrigley, Twitter dropped $120k on global ads to promote the Twitter hashtag #CoachellaLive, a link that took users to a YouTube channel. Here, the concert was streamed live for three days and promoted 5 Gums two new flavours. In addition, personalized viewing experiences of musicians such as Kanye West, Arcade Fire and Duran Duran were offered. The stream was viewed almost 4 million times… and got rave reviews like below… something Twitter and Wrigley probably wants me to chew on before I bash Tweeting again! No matter where you looked on social media sites over the weekend, people from all corners of the globe were shouting out their enthusiasm for the festival, and there were countless tweets from people freely thanking the sponsor for making the webcast possible and promising to go out and buy its gum. That’s the kind of organic response on which paradigm shifts are built. – Review on CNET

    Bell Lets TalkBuild your own property. I will sound manically egotistical when I say that I have been preaching for years that companies should build their own properties. The first time I did at an SMCC event, some folks from IMG tried to take me down. (Truth be told, they know the power of property building better than anyone and have made more money from it than anyone… so maybe that’s why they wanted me to be silent like a lamb!) Bell, RBC, Red Bull, Virgin… these best in class marketers are all doing it and doing it very well. Bell’s five year, $50 million initiative, launched September 2010, is a titanic effort to reduce stigma related to mental illnesses. With a wide range of programs for often-ignored and stigmatized diseases, they also provide support for badly needed, best in class research programs. It includes outreach programs for employees struggling with mental disorder and grants to community organizations ($5,000 to $50,000). Bell Let’s Talk Day is the signature event by this monolith of a company not afraid to be a leader in a sensitive area.

Martin Luther King Jr. and Chrysler Employee engagement. Don’t mind me for reaching south of the border for this one, but employee engagement has become such a huge part of sponsorship, this example is too good to pass up. Plus, it is centered on a tribute to one of the greatest people of our time. Recently, Chrysler demonstrated its support for the new MLK memorial in USA Today. Their full page print ads may seem consumer focused, but read the Dr. King quote they selected to headline the ad and it’s clear this partnership is 1000% employee marketing: “No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”

George Street Festival and Labatt Blue Channel marketing. Please don’t critique this as a no-brainer because it’s about beer and Newfoundland. But last year, when Labatt supplanted Molson, after twenty-five years, as the bevy sponsor of the George Street festival in St. John’s… you know there were some smiles at Bud Camp. If you haven’t been to the festival before, now you have an excuse to get to the Rock. The Festival is owned by all the bar owners along George Street and it contributes 12% of their annual volume in just six days. This year, the entertainment ranged from Great Big Sea to Dropkick Murphys. But the real story here is simple. If you want to sponsor anything and you are a beer marketer, wouldn’t a property owned by bar owners be a top priority?  They even developed collectible bottles for the occasion, as if they needed the extra sales. The exclusive Bud Light bottles will feature 21 collectible bottle caps, each featuring the logo of a different George Street Bar, as well as beer bottle labels with the Association logo and dates of the 2010 George Street Festival. Approximately 3 million of the special bottles will be distributed across Newfoundland and Labrador in Bud Light 6- 12- and 24-packs between now and the festival. (From georgestreetlive.ca)  

6.  Coca Cola Covers Building brand love. The fizz in the sparkling beverage world is entirely emotional. So building brand love is priority #1 when you are Coke or Pepsi and trying to play with teenagers’ fickle hearts. In partnership with MuchMusic, Coke conducted the first-ever online search for music talent, encouraging aspiring musicians to submit videos of cover performances. From the multitude of entrants, the winner was announced on the MuchMusic Video Awards, an amazing reward for the aspiring star. For Coca-Cola… key equity indicators increased amongst teens, with brand love scores increasing by +8.1% vs. YAG. And let’s not forget the over 6 million media impressions the Gold Winning campaign in the Brand Integration category at the Atomic Awards managed to wrangle up.

    GranFondo Canada Good for the community and good for business. If you have ever driven the Sea to Sky, you know how exhilarating it can be. Now imagine you are on your bicycle. The sold out RBC GranFondo  is as unique of an event as you can find. For host communities like Whistler and Kelowna, the tourism benefits are enormous. For sponsors like RBC, it provides a perfect platform to talk about their other initiatives, such as the RBC Blue Water Project, a series of community-based initiatives worldwide focused on clean water. There must be something in the water, as GranFondo was sold out at 7,000 spots — up from 4,000 in 2010.

IBM Portraits in Leadership Borrowed equity. If the definition of sponsorship is the borrowing of equity, this IBM program is a gold standard example. This supplement in Canadian Business is presented by the magazine and Ted Rogers Leadership Centre at Ryerson University. The Portraits project is designed to showcase Canadians as leaders in business, such as Javier San Juan, president and CEO of LOreal Canada and Elyse Allan, president and CEO of GE Canada. Beyond IBM affiliating with content that is important to their clients, it’s a strong example of co-opting the credibility of these leaders and applying it to IBM.

Pepsi and X Factor Heritage equity. Yes Coke is my client, so I have to be careful here. Plus I know absolutely nothing about the multitude of reality TV talent shows, including this one. But for Pepsi, unable to get on the couch in American Idol, I get their desire for jumping onto The X Factor. That alone wasn’t genius, but where I think they broke through is with their TV ad to announce their involvement. Pepsi has a tremendous history in utilizing superstars in their advertising, and The X Factor is on the search for new stars. By utilizing Britney and MJ in their ad, they not only get to talk about The X Factor, but leverage years of past investments in talent and creative. Plus the ad is darn good. I’m sure 10 million weekly viewers of The X Factor will agree.

Presidents Choice Activations Activation excellence. I came across the PC Summer Tour in Montreal this July at the Just for Laughs festival. I can’t say I am often blown away by on-site execution, but this one was worthy if only for it’s presidential branding! First up, was the PC Ice Cream Shop Truck, not necessarily a new idea, but really well executed. Add to that, the 1,000 Plates initiative, which encouraged consumers to send a message to Canada about what is important in their community.  Fully integrated with Facebook and an online quiz, it all added up to robust engagement. Perfectly executed.

CIBC and Bollywood, Scotiabank and Caribana The new new. Few meetings go by without clients asking me about New Canadians. Two banks have done a good job. First off – Scotiabank. They dove into Caribana, with a title sponsor commitment that re-branded the event to the Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival. With an audience of more than 1.2 million, the property has a huge importance to the Toronto community. Plus, it capitalizes on Scotiabank’s presence in the Caribbean. CIBC joined the fray this year, as presenting sponsor of the International Indian Film Academy Weekend and Awards, which attracted over 40,000 visitors to Toronto and a global audience of 350 million viewers. New business is hard to come by, so numbers like these are impressive to any marketer.

12.  Lay
s and the Winnipeg Jets Farm Team. As reported on potatopro.com (Yes, there is a potatopro.com!), the potato chip company recently signed a partnership with the NHL’s newest team. Pardon the Farm Team pun, but connecting the chip brand with a five-year partnership – lasting through the 2015-2016 season – in a province that is crazy over the return of its hockey team, is pretty shrewd marketing. But the real genius is the nuance of aligning themselves with local potato farmers and leveraging community pride. Having worked alongside local potato farmers for over 25 years, Lays knows a thing or two about the importance of community. Through the campaign, Manitobans vote online for someone they think has contributed greatly to the community, and one will receive recognition during every one of the Jets’ 41 home games.


By the way… Did J. Giles Band have any other hits?