Cannes Lions

The Christmas Trail


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The company’s brand purpose is to be there for the jobs and joys of life in Canada – no matter what life looks like. In 2020, when faced with a holiday season affected by the pandemic and public health restrictions, the brand purpose was delivered through an immersive, drive-along Christmas activation to help keep the spirit of Christmas alive in a safe and magical way for guests. To build on the overwhelming success from 2020, the 2021 objective was simple: continue to build brand affinity, defend the company’s position as Canada’s Christmas Store and reinforce its purpose of being there for Canadians.

To achieve this, the experience set out to:

•Increase the number of internal and external stakeholder attendees, while making a significant charitable donation through ticket sales;

•Continue to generate positive word-of-mouth awareness and excitement by earning top tier traditional media and organic social media coverage.


2020 posed a problem for families looking to keep a beloved Christmas tradition alive – receiving their photo with Santa. We solved this problem by creating a drive-along event allowing guests to snap a family photo with Santa in a safe environment. The experience was then built out to include photo-worthy Christmas vignettes and live talent. 2020 guests completed a post-event survey revealing:

•98% would return,

•65% felt an increased perception that we are Canada’s Christmas Store.

This lift in brand affinity presented the opportunity to repeat the experience in 2021 and reach new goals. New vignettes were created to appeal to returning guests, while the most-loved experience pieces from 2020 returned. Updated, curated designs included:

•A life-sized gingerbread house containing an elf serving milk and cookies;

•Mrs. Claus, carollers, elves;

•Santa’s Workshop in the North Pole;

•A life-sized advent calendar;

•12-foot snow globes featuring a live ballerina.


The 2021 event strategy considered its key stakeholders carefully:

•General Public: the event was developed with the primary consumer in mind: healthy active families, using 2020 survey data to make updates to the 2021 experience;

•Media and Influencers: invited strategically before opening to the public allowing for organic social media coverage to be posted leading up to the public ticket release date;

•Employees: COVID-19 stopped all employee Christmas parties; therefore, attending this event allowed employees to participate in a Christmas activity with their families;

•Loyalty Members: to nurture the company’s substantial loyalty member base who expect unique benefits and perks, we created a custom offer via exclusive ticket access opportunities;

•Vendors: invited first to strategically provide feedback on the experience before media/influencers attended;

•Charity: with all ticket proceeds going to the company’s charitable arm, in order to increase its financial contribution in 2021, overall attendance needed to increase.


This cross-functional project included internal teams and trusted external partners. Key builds and product were repurposed from 2020. In 2021, a load-in/build schedule was created to maximize efficiency and cost (beginning October 12). The event was live on November 4 – December 21.

To meet event objectives the following occurred:

•Building stunning Christmas vignettes, hiring talent and brand ambassadors to make the experience interactive;

•Creating a weekly ticket rollout, ensuring the event never ‘sold out’;

•Offering Loyalty members early access each week with a unique code;

•Inviting media and influencers to a preview to capture content and publish stories in the days preceding the first ticket release, leveraging organic social content to drive buzz and excitement about tickets;

•Seven exclusive employee days to reach a larger employee base;

•Creating a virtual video to reach employees outside of the Toronto area.

Budget included: production ($3,100,000), PR ($165,000) and employee engagement ($9,500).


Drive brand affinity and defend our position as Canada’s Christmas Store:

•95% would recommend to friends and family;

•91% would attend again;

•68% felt the event increased their perception of the company as Canada’s Christmas Store;

•99% of employees said the event made them feel proud to be an employee.

Increase guest attendance and raise funds for charity:

•24,000+ guests, including 3,800+ employees;

o13% increase in guests and 72% increase in employees YoY;

•1,800+ Loyalty members registered via early access;

•$160,000 donated from ticket sales.

Generate awareness via media and social channels:

•78% increase in media and influencers YoY;

•199 media stories generating 87MM impressions;

o302% increase in media stories, 213% increase in media impressions YoY.

•2.57MM social impressions;

o70% increase in organic content and impressions YoY.

•885,000 social engagements; 690% increase in social engagements and video views YoY.

•98% of coverage included a call-to-action.

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