A blog series on Shopper Marketing – Breathing New Life into Brands.

By Cyndi Pyburn

The vast majority of Canadian retail sales occur in stores, not online, says Frederick Lecoq, senior vice-president of marketing at FGL Sports, Sport Chek’s parent company. “But most of those are going to be digitally influenced.” – Frederick Lecoq, Sr. VP of Marketing, FGL Sports

While we hear all the time that online retail sales are increasing and bricks & mortar are going the way of the dinosaur, the reality is that shoppers still want to try stuff on. At times, they need expert advice from a store employee, especially when it comes to large ticket items like an expensive pair of running shoes. While clearly, online is a key part of the omni-channel experience, service, luxury and wonder come through more powerfully in a physical store.

But in order to compete, the in-store experience needs to be just that, an exceptional customer experience that engages and ultimately changes customer attitudes toward the brand. A great brand experience must not only put the brand in shoppers’ consideration sets, but also in their hearts. 

In the real world, the in-store shopper has almost perfect, multi-sensory knowledge of the product they are buying. They can see it, smell it, touch it, pick it up, and in some cases, taste it. The physical world is also a great place for the unplanned discovery of newly launched products. Until 5D (touch, taste, smell, see, hear) immersive virtual reality becomes standard consumer technology, an online shopping trip will never be the same as going to a store specially designed to create a superior customer experience journey. In the meantime, retailers have to make the virtual shopping experience as compelling as possible. In order to do that, retailers need to offer value-added experiences during the shopping journey such as sensory engagement, meeting friends, and the ability to ask expert associates for help and advice.

Sport Chek’s impressive same store sales are a testament to the impact of their new digital stores. Sport Chek has opened several flagship stores where a ‘phygital’ experience is found. Their approach to content and their digital store environment has created a successful ‘always-on’ platform and has dramatically improved the customer experience. Inspirational stories bring the brand to life across multiple marketing channels including the physical space. Digital screens and applications have not only energized the store, but are breathing new life into a brand that has been around for three decades.They’ve embraced digital disruption through innovative new marketing strategies that focus on the customer experience.

There is an aspect of entertainment in the stores with un-ending visual content on 226 Samsung screens. You tell me – the aerial footage of heli-skiers and GoPro shot mountain bikers is not only entertaining, it takes your breath away. The videos are inspiring and bring out the inner extreme sports wanna-be in you!

Sport Chek made a calculated decision to do several key things, among many:

  1. Connect emotionally with their customers
  2. Experiment by creating a ‘lab’ store prior to flagship rollout
  3. Digitize their traditional flyer
  4. Create content that is ‘everyday’ versus ‘epic’

Step 1 for Sport Chek was to identify their target customer. We undertook a full segmentation study to identify the ‘Achiever’ as the primary target. Achiever households are involved in a large number of sports and spend money accordingly. Through a series of qualitative work-streams, we honed in on a brand positioning around ‘Inspiration for a better you’. This eventually evolved into Sport Chek’s tagline of “Your Better Starts Here.” This truly tapped into the consumer psyche of desiring to be their best, physically, emotionally and spiritually. From that, Sport Chek’s brand messaging has focused on self-improvement – not the end state, but the journey to be your best, whatever your best is.

Sport Chek also gave themselves permission to ‘experiment’. They created a ‘lab’ store in midtown Toronto and launched their in-store experiential and digital brand vision. Through a variety of various merchandising and digital elements, the ‘typical’ sporting goods store has truly been transformed. 

A third important step was to transform the traditional flyer by digitizing it. This allowed Sport Chek to target their brand messaging based on weather conditions in various regions of the country  …. rain gear for the runner in Vancouver; shorts and t-shirts for the runner in Toronto. As Sport Chek became more inspirational, it has given them guidance in terms of how the brand should come to life across not only the various messaging and marketing channels but also across physical and digital customer experiences. Moving from the traditional flyer to a digital flyer is a big cultural shift. Today, the company is still challenged to bridge online and offline consumer behaviour to paint a unified view, but Sport Chek is eager to take on this challenge.

Lastly, the advertising focus clearly shifted as Sport Chek started to become more content-driven, moving from a campaign-style approach to being ‘always-on’. Sports is somewhat of an easy category to create epic campaigns, but it is ‘everyday’ content that connects with consumers and creates ‘brand stickiness’. 

Sport Chek has become a forward-thinking retailer, not afraid to take risks. Their success lies in the transformation from being transaction driven to having a more functional and emotional connection with their key target audience. One thing is clear: Sport Chek will continue to push the boundaries and adopt next-generation digital thinking and digital practices.


Ready to learn more? Download our Triple C™ framework for a template that will help you develop strategies and tactics that are beneficial for the consumer, the customer and the company. Or, learn how we helped our retail client refresh their brand and redesign their retail locations to be more relevant to younger consumers who weren’t familiar with their brand.