Hill+Knowlton Strategies: Mazda’s Local Legends

Local Legends montage

Hill+Knowlton Strategies: Mazda’s Local Legends

Helping rebuild legendary businesses for good – one business at a time

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Small business owners are legends in their communities – but through the pandemic they were devastated by restrictions and lockdowns, with 1 in 5 businesses at risk of permanent closure by the end of 2021 (Source: CFIB). The impact of those closures had a national impact, rippling through communities and beyond. And, this was all happening as the world was facing a semiconductor shortage, meaning that car companies had fewer vehicles to sell.

Mazda Canada had an opportunity to use this moment to build positive brand sentiment and demonstrate that meaningful action can generate earned attention. Specifically, they challenged Hill+Knowlton Strategies Canada to create an earned-first, integrated cause marketing campaign that would generate brand fame.

With additional closures looming, Hill+Knowlton Strategies knew that Mazda could do something meaningful, especially ahead of the holiday season. Building on their deep roots in helping build back communities, dating back to their role in the Hiroshima rebuild, the agency and Mazda decided to help rebuild legendary businesses for good – one business at a time.

The Local Legends campaign was designed to achieve this aim. Mazda Canada pledged over $1 million to help small businesses rebuild and get back on their feet.

H+K's work began by searching for three of the most beloved Local Legends that were in danger of closing and pledging $100,000 to each, allowing them stay open. Canadians and Mazda dealerships across the country were then mobilised to identify their own Local Legends amongst their communities that needed support. Whether it was a favourite coffee shop, bookstore, restaurant, or something else altogether, Canadians were able to nominate a small business for a chance to receive a financial grant from Mazda.

While these financial grants were a lifeline to the receiving small businesses, Mazda wanted to go one step further in showing their support by providing small businesses a platform to showcase their story. The small business owners became powerful spokespeople and advocates for the campaign and their stories were showcased in a series of online documentaries and leveraged for earned media opportunities. These Local Legends gave first-hand accounts of their stories of struggle throughout the pandemic and how Mazda played a critical role in their rebuild.

The program was a resounding success, driving more than 5,000 nominations from Canadians – in turn, allowing Mazda Canada to support more than 200 small businesses at an exceptionally difficult time.

The campaign led to 163 earned media stories, generating 74 million impressions. On social, 36 pieces of published content from both paid and earned influencer tactics were garnered, generating an estimated 510,000+ social impressions. The campaign also drove a 103% increase in positive sentiment on social during the campaign period over the previous year. And the videos created had an average time spent of 2:35 – a full 1:05 higher than benchmarks.