Winnipeg Sea Bears Day One

Smashing CEBL Attendance Records, From Day One

The CEBL’s Winnipeg Sea Bears took a shot with Brandish, crafting a creative campaign that set new records for the league

The Story

Professional sports aren’t for the faint of heart, especially basketball. So when the Winnipeg Sea Bears needed a partner to help launch their team and convince a legion of fans to care about their team, they made sure to turn to the brand professionals. (It’s us, we’re the professionals 😉)

The Problem

Winnipeg has been known as a hockey city, but the city is growing. Winnipeg has embraced another fast and exciting sport: basketball. So when the Canadian Elite Basketball League announced an expansion team in Winnipeg, the Winnipeg Sea Bears caught Winnipeggers' & Manitobans' attention.

But introducing the new team to a new market was going to be a challenge —we needed to launch the Sea Bears brand with an impact and build a foundation for a dedicated fan base. But with no footage of past games, established fan base or even a complete roster, we had to introduce the team and invite new fans to join them without a known product.

Our Insights

Our strategy was born from our insights into basketball and the market in Winnipeg. Basketball is free from the hierarchy and privilege of other popular sports like hockey—an equal playing field. Nobody owns the court, all you need are sneakers—the lack of expensive equipment opens the sport to many more people.

We’ve seen this reality reflected in the numbers: basketball has had a 50% year-over-year growth in Canadian minor programs, leading to basketball now being the most-played sport for Canadian children. On top of its growth, basketball is considered to be the most culturally relevant sport to play among 18-24-year-olds. 

In Manitoba, the groups leading the growth in the sport are women, new Canadians and the Filipino community. So whatever campaign we would create had to encompass a wide variety of viewpoints and lived experiences  —  we needed to tap into an experience that everyone could relate to and own.

Our Solution

It was from our insights that our solution was born — and it started with borrowing a phrase already found in basketball culture. We wanted to give a nod to people who were already day-one fans of the sport, but also invite people to be fans of the Sea Bears from the first tip-off and attend the team's literal day-one—their first game. It’s how our slogan “Day One” was born, and our invitation to be a part of it.

With our strategy in hand, we set out to create a campaign that would feature a diverse group of folks, ensuring that everyone felt invited to be a Day One Sea Bears fan.

The campaign centred around a video, in which as part of the filming process, we included a wide range of folks being featured. A radio version of the video that reworked the campaign connected with our audience across all mediums and used social media and out-of-home spots across markets to build interest.

The campaign also embraced an exclusive merchandise line to increase the staying power of the campaign, as streetwear and basketball have a deep connection. The Day One campaign offered a once-in-a-franchise opportunity to connect with the community, including local and national influencers.

The Impact

The Day One campaign was a smashing success, as the Sea Bear’s opening game on May 27th sold out, selling 7,303 seats and setting a new league record for crowd size at a CEBL league game.

The energy in the arena was electric, and 855 season passes were sold for the home opener, creating a fan base that is excited and committed to the Winnipeg Sea Bear’s success.

To quote the CEBL Commissioner, Mike Morreale — “The amount (of merchandise) I saw — you would have thought that team had been in town for 10 years. It was mind-blowing and the whole thing was surreal. It was like being at a Raptors game.”

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