Fisherman’s Friend has a new bestie: Raptors head coach Nick Nurse

From Danny Green and Kyle Lowry’s ads for Google, to Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet appearing in ads for Smuckers, and VanVleet and Norm Powell promoting the Mediterranean restaurant chain Osmow’s, the Toronto Raptors have been a marketing mainstay this spring.

But Fisherman’s Friend Canada is taking a less obvious page from the marketing playbook, enlisting the Raptors’ first-year head coach Nick Nurse to promote its throat lozenges.

“It’s a little bit different going with a coach versus a player,” says marketing manager Voula Papadakos of the ad hoc campaign. “Ultimately it’s going after the person who uses the brand, who knows the brand and can best speak to the brand.”

While Fisherman’s Friend knew of Nurse’s fondness for the product, in November a fan tweeted a screen shot of him popping in one of its mint flavoured lozenges accompanied by the message “Nursing a cold?”

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Fisherman’s Friend had already earned some media exposure by sending “care packages” to broadcast personalities including Raptors’ play-by-play announcer Matt Devlin, who thanked them on Twitter and during telecasts.

But Nurse’s obvious fondness for its products provided an opportunity for Fisherman’s Friend to engage in some organic influencer marketing.

“In marketing you always hope for those organic, authentic partnerships,” says Papadakos.

In a deal brokered by Mediacom Sports and Entertainment, MLSE‘s internal creative team created a series of ads that are being shared on the Fisherman’s Friend’s Twitter feed as well as the Raptors’ social channels. Ads are also running on MLSE-owned NBA TV.

“We didn’t have a lot of time, so it was looking at quick turnaround and channels that we could impact as quickly as possible,” says Papadakos.

The resulting ads are straightforward in their execution, with video of Nurse on the sidelines accompanied by a voiceover explaining how Fisherman’s Friend soothes his sore throat.

The spots conclude with Nurse proclaiming, “I’m a fan. That’s the honest truth,” a nod to the brand’s newest brand platform “It works. That’s the honest truth,” which was developed by Giants & Gentlemen.

The spots conclude with Nurse holding various Fisherman’s Friend flavours, including original, cherry, and mint. “I don’t think a lot of consumers know some of our other flavours, so there are still opportunities to speak about those,” says Papadakos.

Like Cossette and Sick Kids’ activation around the #TenYearChallenge earlier this year, it’s another example of a brand moving quickly to capitalize on an unplanned marketing opportunity.

“It’s critical in the social media age that you capitalize when you can, especially when there’s a natural, organic conversation that’s already happening,” says Papadakos. “Obviously you have to have your marketing plan for the year, but leave a little room for adjustments.”

Fisherman’s Friend has been involved in sports through a partnership with several Canadian Football League franchises—including the Toronto Argonauts and Calgary Stampeders—that includes in-stadium signage and sampling programs.

While the brand’s core customer is 45 and older, Papadakos says the Raptors partnership—which includes in-arena elements—enables it to reach a younger, more diverse group of consumers.

Chris Powell