Reigniting a connection to cause

The United Way exists to strengthen communities by providing support for children, immigrants and vulnerable populations. For over 40 years, Climb the CN Tower had been a signature fundraising event for The United Way, however the event had been experiencing a year-over-year softening in public participation. The United Way and media marketing firm The Collective hired Aegis to reinvent the aging event brand. From the start, the intention wasn’t simply to refresh the brand, but to establish a new platform for engagement.

United Way

Research

Brand Identity

Brand Communications

Multi-Media Design

Moving the needle
What’s true of most fundraising events is how a relatively small number of influencers have a disproportionate impact on levels of participation and funds raised. Being tasked with improving campaign metrics, it was important for us to understand the audience with the greatest potential to move the needle.

Through interviews, analysis of social media and material culture, our researchers were able to compile a target audience persona. The individuals our campaign needed to engage skewed younger, held cosmopolitan values, and embraced an active lifestyle. This audience also tended to be community-minded, exhibiting a higher degree of social-intelligence and a natural capacity for leadership.

Reconnecting to values
Up was conceived to be a rallying cry for civic philanthropy. Creative strategy for the new brandname and marketing campaign was informed by two factors: the values driving the event and the culture of the target audience. 

At its heart, the event is about the power of personal scale. As such, the CN Tower becomes a metaphor in a conversation about scale—the Tower may be among the tallest structures in the world, but a single person can scale it. Likewise, a social problem like poverty may be enormous, but the collective actions of individuals can transform it.

The campaign centres on our protagonist, a person who self-identifies with the target audience. She holds the CN Tower in her hand, a use of metaphor contrasting challenge with the power of personal scale. This imagery paired with supporting language, speaks to the cultural triggers that prompt social participation and leadership.

Style is a set of cultural signals, so how these ideas are packaged is important. Even in terms of everyday socializing, “packaging” oneself is part of how we make rapport with others. Likewise, our design strategy uses aesthetics to signal the young, urban, cosmopolitan, liberal values of our target audience.

Designing with culture requires respect. Efforts to appropriate cultural signals will ultimately fail if the underlying values are not shared by the brand. Therefore, authenticity is paramount.

Delivering strong results
A campaign needs effective reach and delivery. Aegis strategic partner, Intent Media, devised a grassroots media strategy that made effective use of campaign resources by leveraging social media and partnerships in the radio, tv and out-of-home advertising world. The campaign hashtag #up4community experienced strong engagement on social media platforms, ultimately securing a trending spot on event day. Performance metrics reveal a sharp increase in event participation and fundraising results, essentially reversing a year-over-year downward trend.

+29%

Our new campaign for United Way produced a 29% increase in participation

$1,688m

The increased participation yielded a record fundraising total

+27%

Fundraising results reveal a 27% increase over the previous year with a higher pledge level per participant and a lower attrition rate

+29%

Our new campaign for United Way produced a 29% increase in participation

+27%

Fundraising results reveal a 27% increase over the previous year with a higher pledge level per participant and a lower attrition rate

$1,688m

The increased participation yielded a record fundraising total