With ‘Dear Terry,’ the Terry Fox Foundation looks to engage younger Canadians

Who: Terry Fox Foundation, with No Fixed Address for strategy and creative.

What: “#DearTerry,” the launch campaign for this year’s edition of the annual fundraising run.

When & Where: In addition to a collectible T-shirt introduced in February, the campaign is built around a substantial PR push that is being supported by influencer marketing, owned and paid social, and out-of-home donated by vendors including Lamar, Pattison and Streetseen. All of the creative drives to a dedicated landing page where people can upload their own #DearTerry message.

Why: Now in its 43rd year, the Terry Fox Run is a well-established fundraising event, with broad-based awareness and participation. “We were the OG run—the run that started them all,” said the Terry Fox Foundation’s vice-president of marketing and communications, Denise Dias.

The Terry Fox Foundation first used the T-shirt distributed to run participants as a marketing tool last year, enlisting famous Canadian author and artist Douglas Coupland to oversee the design.

The shirt was intended to be “collectible” and “exciting,” and sold through its initial run of 5,373 shirts (one for every kilometre Fox  ran in the original Marathon of Hope) in just one day. “It was the first year it felt like the shirt itself was desirable outside of the run,” said Dias.

The goal was to build off the success of last year’s campaign, while engaging and invigorating a younger generation who may not revere him as much as older Canadians.

How: The Terry Fox Foundation kicked off this year’s fundraising campaign by enlisting global superstar—and proud Canadian—Ryan Reynolds to help design this year’s shirt, which features an image of Fox surrounded by various greetings to the iconic Canadian on the front, and letters sent to him during the original Marathon of Hope.

Predictably, Reynolds’ involvement led to a surge in consumer interest, with more than 28,000 shirts sold and nearly $1 million raised since it was introduced. “His involvement just lifted this campaign into a whole other stratosphere,” said Dias. “He has an international superstardom that is very exciting.”

The campaign’s creative component, meanwhile, was inspired by a quote from Coupland, who once said “before there was email, there was simply mail, and Terry Fox probably received more mail than anybody in Canadian history.” According to the Canadian Museum of History, Fox received more than 65,000 letters while running the Marathon of Hope, and the letters have continued to flow to his family over the years.

The campaign uses an original font that replicates the handwriting from the countless letters sent by Canadians over the years, and featuring messages like “Dear Terry: I still get choked up when I see videos of you running” and “Dear Terry, you are my greatest hero ever.”

And we quote: “Through the use of #DearTerry we aimed to create a movement that continues the tradition of reaching out to Terry and finding inspiration in his journey. What he accomplished in his short life is something that can provide inspiration to all, encouraging them to find their own inner strength and persevere.” — Erin Banting, vice-president, No Fixed Address

Chris Powell