It hasn’t been that long since Canadians were busy unwrapping Christmas presents under trees. And it’s a safe bet that prairie farm kids received their share of scale model farm toys and clothing branded with their—or Dad’s—favourite machinery name. Those toys, caps, T-shirts and the like actually generate a substantial amount of revenue for the major brands.
Every December, dealership parts departments beef up their stock of such goodies in anticipation of customers combining parts pick ups with some Christmas shopping. As a kid, I enjoyed tagging along on trips to dealership parts departments. It gave me a chance to scope out the display of scale models. Although dealers in the 1970s didn’t seem to stock anything near the selection they do now, the local John Deere dealer always seemed to have more to look at than the others.
In fact, you could argue that of all the brands Deere has pushed the boundaries of brand merchandising the farthest. They licence the leaping dear to companies producing everything from toys to trailer hitch covers.
As impressive as Deere’s brand merchandising efforts have been over the years, they are actually beginning to pale in comparison to those from one other brand. This one is green, too. But it has nothing to do with farm equipment. I’m talking about the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
If you live in Saskatchewan, odds are you can count at least half a dozen ordinary items in and around your home that display the Rider’s big “S” emblem. The team has turned merchandising into an advanced science.
That fact first struck me when I needed to buy windshield washer fluid for my truck. Every jug of it at the local gas station was branded with the Roughrider logo. “Branded washer fluid?” I thought. “That’s a first.” Even if I hadn’t wanted to support the team, I had no choice. It was buy Rider-branded fluid or go without.
Things have since ballooned from there.
There have been cereal (Fantuz Flakes) and even potato chips wearing the team crest. But that is far from the limit when it comes to foodstuffs. The Riders have even branded watermelons. I’m sure there are marketing gurus who once considered that an impossible task. But the Riders have done it.
Despite now being acclimatized to seeing nearly every conceivable product available in Saskatchewan wearing the big “S”, I was stopped in my tracks when I noticed branded scoop shovels at a local store. I didn’t quite know what to think of that. Having grown up on a farm, I learned to hate the scoop shovel. As a kid, I was frequently handed one and sent into a granary to work like a dog keeping a hungry auger fed. And those were the days when dust masks were for sissies.
So, I wondered, should a team really have its brand associated with an instrument of torture. As I stood staring at the shovel display, I took out my smartphone and snapped a picture of it. Just then, a clerk strolled by and we began talking about them. “They’re going like hotcakes,” he said. When I wondered aloud if branding shovels was really a good idea, the clerk, having also grown up on a farm, pointed out that we’d have been quite happy as kids to have light-weight aluminum shovels, rather than the heavy steel ones that were common in the day.
“True enough,” I thought.
So as the Riders add yet another product to their list of branded items, I have to wonder: will there come a day when they go for the really big branding target? Will Saskatchewan eventually be officially renamed Rider Nation?