Sobeys begins Olympic campaign connecting food, family and sport

Who: Empire Company Ltd., with BBDO and FCB for creative, UM for media, XMC for experiential and athlete management, and North Strategic for PR.

What: “Feed the Dream,” the Olympic marketing campaign for Empire, parent company of Sobeys and a handful of other grocery retail banners, including the Voilà delivery service.

When & Where: There will be different elements and stages to the campaign, which went live this week. All of the Empire brands will activate via their own channels and in-store, but the mass media push across TV, digital/social, and out of home is for Sobeys. The campaign will run through the Olympics, with an expectation of more than 550 million impressions across broadcast and digital.

Why: After a one-year delay of the Tokyo Games, and despite lingering fears they could be disrupted again—we know how you work, coronavirus—it seems like it may finally be safe to say… “Let the Games begin.”

Empire is one of the first out of the gate with a campaign—which it refers to as a “movement”—that leans hard into its family focused brand positioning. “Feed The Dream” refers to both nurturing the dreams of young athletes who aspire to be an Olympian, as well as the more literal context of performance inspired by family and fuelled by good food.

The underlying insight for “Feed the Dream” is that no athlete can reach their full potential on their own, said Erika DeHaas, vice-president of marketing communications with Sobeys. “It’s nurtured by those who love and care about you—your family, your friends, your teammates,” she said The campaign brings that insight to life in a number of ways.

How: The early part of the Sobeys campaign is digitally focused, and built around a symbolic manifestation of the connection between food, family and sport: A Team Canada tablecloth—a tapestry or well wishes shared by supporters at or on social media using the hashtags #FeedTheDream or #YourWords. Aside from stitching messages into the tablecloth, Sobeys is creating a digital version for athletes to see all of the words of support.

“We wanted to create an initiative that created excitement and engagement across all Canadians to share their well wishes,” said DeHaas. That encouragement could be even more meaningful to Olympians this year, when they’ll have so few friends or family supporting them in person.

“Now more than ever, these athletes need the support,” she said. “And for us, we know that no sport unites a country quite like the Olympics. We found that that relevancy of food and the tablecloth was a unique way to bring it together, as a way to connect our athletes through sports through those celebratory messages.”

Early TV creative introduces the tablecloth and encourages viewers to share their own messages of encouragement. The ads feature three of the Canadian athletes sponsored directly by Empire, along with family members voicing their support as their words are stitched into the fabric. The ads close by inviting viewers to share their own messages of support to help “Feed the Dream.”

Future TV creative running closer to and during the Games will shift away from the tablecloth while retaining the same themes of the current messaging. “It’s about showcasing that journey that they have been on with their family,” said DeHaas. “It’s really looking back at that connection [between] them and their family members or teammates, and the communities that have supported them.”

David Brown