Lesson from Air Canada on how to engage partners and build your brand

By Luke Sklar and Amber Hudson

Welcome to the Everything is Marketing blog. We are here to prove that every single issue in life; every person, story or event, has a marketing lesson. And we want you to join in the conversation. So crack those knuckles and weigh in on the discussion, share your thoughts and ideas, agree or disagree. Bring it on, we want to hear from you!

No one could argue it was horrifying. The hit Pacioretty took in last week’s NHL game that resulted in a concussion and broken vertebra was brutal. There are those who cried foul and thought Chara should have been suspended/fined. While others thought, hey it’s just part of the game. But the flames were fuelled when Air Canada stepped in with a threat to pull sponsorship unless the NHL does something to improve player safety. They wanted a reaction and damned if they didn’t get it!

As a major, if not particularly loved, Canadian sponsor Air Canada has every right to speak up. But it all begs the question, did they do it right? We say hell no!

  • Don’t shoot a cannon then run for cover. We are in the era of mature conversation, not patriarchal preaching.
  • Not a good idea to start a conversation with a threat. These kinds of menacing manoeuvres rarely engage the other party.
  • Okay, if you want to go that route and make a threat, then at least have the cajones to follow through. As we write this, no advertising has been pulled. Empty PR play!

So what can marketers learn from this?

Porter and West Jet (and I bet you fearless reader) clearly know Air Canada has a brand problem: cold, inhospitable and overpriced. Maybe they should spend time elevating their product vs. firing shots at the NHL. More deeply, they started to sling their arrogant DNA around again. Their brand should and could promise Canadian Integrity and Canadian Safety. They could have engaged the NHL on these dimensions. Instead, they took a shot and scrambled back to their Executive Boardroom.

What do you think? Did they botch it or did they in fact do it right?