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Shooting for Greatness: Digital Tactics for the 25th Anniversary of Wayne Gretzky’s Toronto

“We got 99 problems but digital marketing ain’t one”

The Pre-Game:
Wayne Gretzky’s Toronto is a historically rich restaurant located at 99 Blue Jays Way that opened in 1993. Throughout the restaurant you can find display cases adorned with a plethora of Wayne Gretzky’s memorabilia; from his first pair of skates to his last NHL jersey. Over the years, the restaurant has enjoyed success by catering to patrons searching for an authentic sports bar experience. Many Toronto sports fans have come to know the restaurant as the best place to watch the game; not only because of its tasty pub style food and its proximity to all of Toronto’s professional sporting venues but also for the chance to watch the game in the proverbial home of the greatest athlete on earth. Some hockey zealots even pop in just for the chance to see Wayne himself, who stops in from time to time. His father Walter, however, is somewhat of a ‘cult-favorite’ and visits the restaurant as often as he can.

This September, Wayne Gretzky’s Toronto celebrates its 25th Anniversary after enjoying a fruitful quarter-century in Toronto. With the rapidly changing nature of the digital landscape, they sought out an agency to breathe new life into their brand and generate buzz as they celebrate their silver anniversary. Within a few weeks, Elite Digital was selected to pitch along with several other agencies from Toronto.

Right away, we knew this campaign had to be legendary – not only for our own sake but also if we were to live up to the name and elite status of Wayne Gretzky himself. After almost a month of brainstorming creative concepts, developing tactics to drive engagement, working rigorously on proposals, and a little bit of ‘overtime’, we were ready to pitch.

In late 2017, our Digital Excellence Team and Creative & Strategic S.W.A.T. Team pitched to the owners of Wayne Gretzky’s Toronto for a year-long marketing campaign. After a successful first run, we were quickly invited back for a second pitch, wherein we were to outline a more robust and specific plan of what the year-long campaign would look like. This included details such as proposed media spend, targeting, creative concepts, contests, merchandise, print collateral, in-house marketing materials, photography, videography, and more. Before the new year, we were honoured to hear that we were selected to spearhead all digital activations – including social media management, contests, microsites, and more – working alongside event and PR-based agency, Mint, who was selected to handle live-events and public relations.

Prepared for the exciting game ahead, the teams at Elite and Mint laced up our skates and hit the ice together.

First Period: Elite Digital / Gretzky’s 1 – Stale Brand 0
The first period began with a plan to re-invigorate the Wayne Gretzky’s Toronto brand. Even though the restaurant was able to utilize the legacy of Wayne Gretzky himself as an asset, it was critical for the brand to adapt and evolve to ever-changing market by making a Gretzky-sized footprint in the digital landscape.

Our creative team designed a new logo for the brand that reflected the legacy of Wayne Gretzky himself and carried over aspects of the restaurant, wrapped-up in a silver bow for a strong 25 years in Toronto.

While our creative team worked on the design, our social media and digital resource team focused on adapting the digital voice of the brand while implementing fresh content that aligned with our strategic direction. This was achieved by curating content that aligned with our fresh new re-brand through photo, video, design, editing, and playful yet professional copywriting.

Alongside the digital activations, the restaurant created a fresh new menu with delicious and modern dishes that cater to almost any pallet, all while keeping house favourites like Wayne’s grandma’s meatloaf, that long-time fans have enjoyed for decades. Once the menu was finalized, taste tests ensued (call it a work perk). Following this, our creative team re-designed the menu and Mint assisted in launching an influencer event to spread the word.

Interested in the new menu? Check-it-out  HERE. 

Lastly, we sought to raise awareness for the daily promotions the restaurant offered – from Wine Wednesdays to Caesar Sundays, we fused together industry-leading social media targeting research, copywriting, and creative design and created time-sensitive daily promotions that quickly drove sales glove side high. One Mojito Tuesday, the restaurant sold over 200 Mojitos! With the Gretzky brand re-invigorated, we were ready to focus on engagement and driving traffic into the store for the many Toronto sports and cultural related events that were on the horizon.

Second Period: Elite Digital / Gretzky’s 2 – Low Engagement 0
With the Gretzky brand re-invigorated across social media platforms and in-house collateral adapted, it was time to drive engagement both in-store and online. The goal: increased foot traffic and generating buzz for the 25th Anniversary. Our social team generated exceptional buzz online and in-store for events like The Superbowl, The Olympic Games (working alongside Budweiser), St. Patrick’s Day celebrations (working with Guinness), the NHL Playoffs, NBA Playoffs, Cinco de Mayo, regular season Jays games, and more recently, the World Cup. Our goal was to leverage the new fresh look of the brand along with the delicious new menu to drive ‘thumbs-on-tweets’ and ‘bums-in-seats’ as the industry jargon goes.

During the summer months, the wood-laden and paradise-like patio known as Oasis, which can be found atop the restaurant, opened for business. One challenge we had to navigate was promoting drink and food products (as well as time-sensitive promotions) that were only available at Oasis and not Wayne Gretzky’s, and vice versa. We mitigated this pitfall by creating a separate social media account for Oasis, running product and promotion specific brand awareness ads for both Wayne Gretzky’s Toronto and the Oasis rooftop patio.

Since the opening of Oasis, we have driven engagement on social media posts and have pushed audiences to attend exciting events and parties including events sponsored by Indie 88, Railside, and Corona. After several successful months of driving engagement and traffic during a period of heavy sports and cultural events for the city, we re-focused our sights on the 25th Anniversary itself.

Third Period: Elite Digital / Gretzky’s 3 – Quiet City 0
Upon generating creative concepts for the 25th Anniversary, we quickly realized something – Wayne Gretzky and the restaurant itself draw some of their greatness from the people, culture, places, and events that surround them. Greatness is the product of people – and people are a product of their environment. To truly celebrate and pay homage to the greatness of Wayne Gretzky and his restaurant, we felt it necessary to celebrate other diverse milestones that have occurred in the past 25 years since the restaurant opened – since 1993.

This includes personal milestones for Canadians, historical milestones for the City of Toronto and Wayne Gretzky’s Toronto, and more. From this spirit, we developed the “Since ‘93” campaign, which at its heart involves the celebration of Canadian and Toronto milestones to not only promote the 25th Anniversary but also to drive donations to charities that are meaningful to Wayne Gretzky and his legacy.

Since ’93 will bring together the community of Toronto for the 25th Anniversary event in September, and celebrate the legacy we all share together. It will bridge the connection between Toronto landmarks and milestones and Wayne Gretzky’s Toronto, cementing the restaurant as a defining landmark of the city and its culture. Like Wayne, we’ve got a lot of goals, but the most important one is to raise $99,000 for The Dotsa Bitove Wellness Academy, ProAction Cops and Kids, and other charities.

The campaign will roll out in different phases; starting with organic social media posts and brand awareness ads to generate buzz, awareness, and interest in the campaign; secondly, we’ll be encouraging Canadians to share the amazing feats that they have celebrated or experienced ‘Since ’93’ for the chance to win a VIP ticket for two to the 25thAnniversary Celebration itself, with Wayne Gretzky in attendance.

In this Game, Everyone Wins
Our goal for the Since ’93 campaign is to provide Canadians with the chance to share their collective memories, moments, and milestones that are a defining feature of their own greatness. On top of this, we are confident that the campaign will enable the restaurant to place the final building block it needs to reinvigorate itself and remain relevant in our rapidly changing, digitally competitive world – all while not losing sight of its legacy and all the wonderful little things that brought it to where it is today.

Most importantly, the donations generated by the restaurant and digital activations will go a long way in providing support and resources to those in need; supporting others and the community is, and always will be, one of the most powerful and influential ways that Wayne Gretzky and the restaurant continue to share their greatness with the world.

About Burke Dorman

Social Media Manager and Staff Writer at Elite Digital

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