CIBC caps Paralympics sponsorship with airport welcomes

Realism and inclusiveness defined this year's work as sports becomes a bigger part of the bank's brand.


With the conclusion of the Paralympic Games in PyeongChang, CIBC has been welcoming Canada’s athletes as they land back on home turf, concluding the season’s sponsorship of the Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC).

For the third consecutive Paralympic Games, the bank held events at Canadian airports to greet Paralympians as they disembarked, feeding content from the events into their social media feeds. It will also hold events at its branches to celebrate the athletes’ achievements. It caps this year’s “Shatter Barriers” campaign, which depicted Canadian para-athletes embracing the physical grind of their sport and overcoming personal boundaries in pursuit their dreams.

The storytelling potential around the games and its athletes have made it “cornerstone” of the bank’s sponsorship portfolio, says Andrew Greenlaw, VP of sponsorship and community investment at CIBC.

The bank has sponsored the CPC since 2014, but saw its sports sponsorships take off as a key focus in 2015 when it was lead partner of the 2015 Pan/Parapan Am games in Toronto.

When it came time to design a campaign for PyeongChang, Greenlaw said the bank heard from Paralympians who wanted to see the focus shifted away from their disabilities and placed instead on their athletic achievements. (The bank also recently conducted a poll that showed that one-third of Canadians believe Paralympians don’t get the public recognition they deserve, with 36% of respondents saying it’s a lack of knowledge around the capabilities of persons with disabilities that is the biggest obstacle for change.)

The financial brand, working with Toronto agency Fuse Marketing, hired Paralympians Chelsey Gotell and Josh Cassidy as co-creative directors to consult on a series of videos that were shared on the bank’s Twitter and Facebook pages. Nicole Gallucci, SVP of experiential at Fuse, said involving the Paralympians in campaign development was key to ensuring the work was authentic and respectful. In some cases, it resulted in “grittier” creative than brands may typically be open to.

While a branded feature did appear on broadcast television as part of its CBC Olympic sponsorship package, the six short films and welcome-home events stayed in social and digital channels. “This is where Canadians consume content during the Games,” said Aleena Mazhar, director of experiential at Fuse. The campaign “opted out of broadcast” to maximize media spend and provide some two-way consumer communication.