Scotiabank launches new platform to make hockey more diverse and inclusive

Who: Scotiabank with Rethink.

What: “Hockey For All,” a new CSR platform that will see Scotiabank contribute $2 million over the next 12 months to promote diversity and inclusion for underrepresented groups across hockey.

When & Where: The platform debuted today (Oct. 12), the first day of the 2021-22 NHL season. TV and online video will introduce the initiative, while a “Hockey For All” section of the Scotiabank site provides more detail about where it is spending the money.

Why: Scotiabank has made hockey a core brand pillar for years—it’s featured in its advertising, was the subject of a unique documentary, and the bank spends about $40 million a year for the naming rights to Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena.

But while the game remains a cornerstone of Canadiana, in the last year there’s been increased talk about how the game lacks diversity and retains a backwards looking, overwhelmingly white culture that resists change and efforts to be more inclusive.

Earlier this spring, Angus Reid released a study called “Game Misconduct,” which found two-thirds of those who coached or played say the game’s culture has a problem with inclusion and bullying, and 88% said that organized hockey is too expensive to play. Scotiabank said that “Hockey for all” aims to improve diversity, equity and inclusion by supporting cultural changes and providing financial assistance.

“We believe there is a place for all Canadians within the game, but until now, too many children from coast-to-coast-to-coast have faced obstacles,” said Laura Curtis Ferrera, Scotiabank’s chief marketing officer. “‘Hockey for all’ is our effort to change the game forever by eliminating barriers, challenging norms and stereotypes, and breaking the game wide open—for every future.”

How: Scotiabank will give $350,000 to the Hockey Canada Foundation Assist fund, which supports young BIPIC hockey players. Other groups receiving support aim to make the game more welcoming to LGBTQ+ players, support the game in Canada’s north, and encourage young girls to play.

The new platform is being introduced through a 60-second spot running on TV and online. The ad features a handful of hockey groundbreakers who have experienced discrimination in hockey, juxtaposed with some of the many racist, sexist, and otherwise ignorant comments and posts from people who are opposed to making the sport more inclusive.

Some of the players featured include Harrison Browne, the first openly transgender athlete in professional hockey; indigenous NHLer Ethan Bear; Billy Bridges, a Paralympic gold medallist and World Champion; and Jayna Hefford, a four-time Olympic gold medallist.

The spot ends with PK Subban, one of the best-known Black stars in the NHL, seated behind a row of microphones to respond to the racists’ call for non-white hockey players to “go back to where you belong.” Subban stares into the camera and says defiantly, “This, this is where we belong.”

“When you’re dealing with subject matter as important as this, authenticity becomes extremely important,” said Dhaval Bhatt, creative director, Rethink. “That’s why all of the lines were sourced from actual interviews, as well as real comments posted online. We also shared our work with the athletes through the process to ensure we told their story in the right way.”

Along with the anchor ad, Scotiabank and Rethink have created 30-second documentary-style videos highlighting stories of overcoming adversity.

And we quote: “As a League, we believe that increasing access and opportunity for underrepresented groups in hockey makes the game better, stronger, and more vibrant. ‘Hockey For All’ is a meaningful effort to create positive and long-lasting culture change that welcomes more diverse communities to the sport.” —Kim Davis, senior executive vice-president of social impact, growth initiatives and legislative affairs, National Hockey League

David Brown