Raptors’ “We The North” Is A Monster Dunk

[Cache – #155]

If you’re not different, you’re the same – so why should anyone do business with you as opposed to someone else?

It’s a scary question, because chances are, your organization is not that much different from its competitors.  There is a factual basis for this assertion:  most companies are in competitive industries, trying to do essentially the same thing as the next guy, a bit better than that next guy.

But let’s not let the facts get in the way of a good argument.  That argument being:  it makes no difference that you are not that different.  How you get your fingernails under the scintilla of difference you possess and leverage it to the hilt?  That’s what matters.

Consider the Toronto Raptors of the NBA.  They play in a league with 29 other teams, all of which must play according to the exact same set of rules and the vast majority of which, qualified possibly by the occasional clown like Donald Sterling, want to win basketball games.

Adding to these structural factors that restrict adopting a unique, meaningful brand position and sticking with it, the revolving door in the Raptors’ dressing room has brought countless players to and from Toronto, including a number of highly visible ones who ultimately could not bear the exile of playing for the sole Canadian team in an American league.

All of this over the course of 19 mostly losing seasons.

But this year is different.

Yes, it is different that the team is winning, and winning a lot.  But the most important difference with the Raptors, the one that could endure for generations if ownership and management are disciplined enough, was unveiled not three weeks ago.  It is the brand positioning of the team as the Northern outsider.  As the urban, but unavoidably isolated, titan that some people think doesn’t belong in their precious league.

It is all crystallized by the line:  We The North.  And unveiled in a stunning, Hollywood-calibre ad that, if you can spare 60 seconds, will blow you away for the sense of separateness, civic pride and outright civic power it conveys without relying on Canadian cliches.

We’re far from the west side
Miles from the east side
No where near the south side

We are the north side
A territory all our own

If that makes us outsiders?
We’re in.

Click the image to watch

Speaking of any one organization not being much different from the next, Toronto is nowhere near to being the northernmost team in the NBA.  Toronto wins the bronze:  it is the third most northern NBA city, after Portland and Minneapolis.

Which drives home the most important point of all:  the success of a brand position lies not in whether it is factually a true difference, but in whether your audience believes and feels it is a true difference.  Ask Subway, the 40,000-store empire built on saying they sell fresh food, which would seem to be the minimum acceptable standard for any foodservice operation anywhere.

For generations, the New York Yankees have been positioned as The Bronx Bombers.  For generations, the Dallas Cowboys have been known as America’s Team.  If the Toronto Raptors have the discipline to stick with their new and brilliant position – We The North – they can deeply connect with their fans for generations to come.


P.S. The Raptors have created some messaging confusion by also talking about a Northern Uprising.  In contrast to the currency and urbanism of the We Are North and North Side messages, Northern Uprising sounds like it’s from the 19th century.  The Raptors should ice it.

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