Toronto Raptors: Top six moments from the successful 2010s

Championship Banner - Toronto Raptors(Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)
Championship Banner - Toronto Raptors(Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Anatoliy Cherkasov/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
(Photo by Anatoliy Cherkasov/NurPhoto via Getty Images) /

4) Wild success of “We the North”

The 2016 All-Star Game was certainly an impressive achievement, but it owes something to the overwhelming success of the “We the North” campaign.

For most of its existence, the Toronto Raptors lacked a clear identity that positively resonated with fans. This was a team with a short track record of winning and a laundry list of miscues, poor decision-making, and mistakes. As a fan, you didn’t expect to win— you’d get your hopes up only to be disappointed. Most nights, it was enough that the team cracked 100 points and you got your free slice from Pizza Pizza.

All of that changed on April 16, 2014. As Chris Powell so eloquently puts it, “We the North” became a rallying cry for a franchise that has come to revel in its “outsider” status. It has endured and gained in popularity over the years as the Raptors continue to win.

Why has it been so successful? This is a slogan that not only Torontonians but all of Canada could embrace and take pride in. It resonates with everyone. The record turnout for the championship parade this past June is the proof in the pudding.

The origins of We the North make for a curious story too. MLSE had originally enlisted Sid Lee (the team behind this campaign) to create a new Raptors logo, one that would replace the dinosaur that had been part of the team’s visual identity since its inaugural season in 1995.

Sid Lee’s executive creative director and partner, Jeffrey Da Silva, remembers the efforts to make the newly ascending franchise the coolest team in the NBA. Playing against American conceptualizations of Canada, the campaign would focus on the sport’s urban appeal, with TV spots featuring Toronto’s concrete playgrounds and graffiti-covered back alleys.

That bled through into the actual slogan. We the North takes the idea of an outsider, traditionally considered a negative thing and upends it into a positive— it’s cool to be unique, to be Canadian.

In short, We the North worked because it hit all the right notes. Not only is it a national mantra, but it’s also a break from a woeful past, epitomizing the success that the Toronto Raptors have enjoyed for most of this decade.