Creating branded content that’s detached from the product yet engages the viewer emotionally is a tricky endeavor.
Tim Hortons, a Canadian fast food joint, didn’t recommend hashbrowns nor did it praise it’s original blend coffee, they actually found the Nairobi Ice Lions in Kenya, who got love and visibility from one of the game’s greatest players.
What makes the story powerful is the recognition of Kenyan hockey players catapulting their game onto the map of global hockey culture, to see the challanges they’re faced with as pioneers in their African environment. It starts with a rink, skates, gloves, convincing others to join the movement, not to mention the financial management of sponsors and active players.
In light of all the soulless branded content circulating the digital ether, this story touches upon a lost human trait, to recognize others without self interest for fame, money, personal gain, control or status, akin to a utopia of pure virtue.
Still, it’s marketing money at the end of day, even though you might think differently about your refilled coffee. And in terms of the stories craftsmanship, the framing of poor Nairobi is way too simple and it remains to be seen how Tim Hortons will invest and help Kenyan hockey development.
Luckily enough, for the producers, the original piece was created by Great Big Story two years ago, who only received a third of the visibility to date, talk about reach of branded versus independent storytelling.