2021 Winner

Roncesvalles Village BIA

Not For Lease

The Local Collective

GoldChallenger Strategy

Already struggling small businesses in the beloved Toronto neighbourhood of Roncesvalles faced a second lockdown at the start of the crucial holiday season. Small businesses, the lifeblood of our country, accounting for 97.9% of Canadian businesses, have faced horrific financial impacts due to COVID-19, with only 27% reporting normal sales volumes and 52% seeing a further drop in sales as a result of the “second wave.” 54% of small business owners said their "immediate focus is on survival” and 50% were truly worried that they may have to close permanently.

Within this already grim reality, small businesses in Toronto deemed “non-essential” had a second lockdown imposed beginning Nov. 23, the start of the crucial 5-week Holiday season. With many businesses making up to half of their annual sales during the holidays, and Canadians already planning to spend nearly 20% less this holiday season, independent businesses in Toronto were left scrambling to figure out how they would survive.

The Roncesvalles Business Improvement Area knew something had to be done. Traditionally all marketing activity was developed internally through street festivals, but now faced with trying to compete against giants like Amazon, the BIA needed to make an impact without the ability to afford high media costs. They needed to drive Torontonians to shop local from the Roncesvalles high street this holiday season with less than $35,000 total budget.

“Without you buying local this holiday season, your neighbourhood will be forever changed.”
Conceptually, Canadians want to support small businesses. 95% believe that supporting them is key to keeping our economy healthy and 82% are worried that their favourite local businesses will close down.

If Canadians were strongly on board with the ‘shop local’ movement, why were local businesses suffering? Experts have noted that actually getting people to prioritize shopping locally over scoring the best deal and the lure of convenience from online giants like Amazon is a very tough sell during the pandemic. Shorter-term concerns, such as financial uncertainty, labour market conditions, and general nervousness were driving behaviour because people aren’t thinking about longer-term impact, such as the character of their neighbourhood, long-term value of their housing, and the fact that small business owners are often their friends and neighbours. They needed to make Torontonians feel personally responsible for the fate of small businesses.

A provocative creative strategy put Torontonians in a dystopian, yet possible, future. Amazon has seen sales increase nearly 40% during the pandemic and big box stores are up 6-24%, while local businesses suffer. With as many as 225,000 small businesses potentially forced to close in Canada because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they needed to shock people by forcing them to experience the harsh reality that could befall the Roncesvalles high street. Without their support, small businesses that are the heart and soul of the neighbourhood will dwindle and die. They needed to show them what the future could look like based on their behaviour.

On Nov. 24, the second day of the new lockdown, “Roncy” residents woke up to more than 50 store/business windows covered in craft paper, with “For Lease” signs. This arresting display forced shoppers to viscerally experience the reality of the pandemic. At noon, in a coordinated event, the store owners ripped off the paper to reveal the core campaign message underneath: to resist the lure of Amazon and support independent retailers. They also had federal and provincial members of Parliament attend and speak to the media.

Instagram, including IG stories, was the primary social media channel used to drive awareness and spark conversations.

The reaction from the press was incredible. While a few media outlets were invited to the 12 pm event, by 1pm every news agency in the city covered the story and all four National news networks turned it into a National Story because it was such an impactful display of what small businesses across Canada are experiencing. This media impact kept going for 72 hours, with more news teams arriving to cover the event. The CBC ran stories on multiple days and the visuals were used as hero images in publications such as the Financial Post’s own story on the state of small business.

In total, 44 press outlets ran stories, leading to more than 255 million impressions and a $2,000,000 media value. The campaign drove a 570% return on the BIA’s investment, the most successful marketing initiative in the brand's history.

Engagement on social media showed dramatic increases as well. The BIA’s Instagram account had a +900% increase in post engagements and a nearly +800% increase in growth rate. Each post generated at least +500% the average historical engagement (AHE), with the strongest post achieving +1600% AHE.

Matt Litzinger, President & Chief Creative Officer, The Local Collective
Pepe Bratanov, Creative Director, The Local Collective
Kaitlin Doherty, Managing Director The Local Collective
Lauren Brown, Solutions and Operations Director, The Local Collective
Michael Ash, Integrated Strategy Director, The Local Collective
Amanda McMillan Brand Director, The Local Collective
Omar Morson, Designer, The Local Collective
HyPitch Marketing
Wild Child Group

Have questions? Need help?
Contact Rowan Traynor at 1-416-408-2300 x213 or rtraynor@brunico.com.