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Challenge 3: Attracting partnerships

The Canadian Olympic Team rebrand by Hulse & Durrell

Hulse & Durrell stripped the Canadian Olympic Team’s logo right back

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. 

Convincing the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) to dramatically simplify its brand, Hulse & Durrell stripped back the mark 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. 

“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.

Various hashtag campaigns were at the centre of the strategic shift

Not only did the simplified mark 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. 

“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,” adds Durrell.

It’s 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.

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