Last week The Toronto Raptors beat the Golden State Warriors in Game 6 of the NBA Finals to claim their first NBA title. At the start of the season this outcome was unforeseen.
How did it happen?
There are a number of reasons of course. I can’t reliably comment on the players or the specific coaching approach, but I can comment on the “sixth man” on the team — the fans.
About five years ago, Sid Lee was asked by the Toronto Raptors organization to work to energize supporters (existing and future) behind the team. “We The North” was the result.
We the North both draws from and builds this new confidence. It’s a pride-building statement for everyone.
Building a genuine fan base behind a sports franchise is very difficult. And it can’t be done overnight. It is simply not credible to create a series of marketing “assets” and force fans to adopt them. Fans will choose which songs to sing. You have to build a foundational platform. Something that can unite the community.
This means tapping into deeper sentiments.
Toronto is a relatively new Global City. Like a number of North American cities it grew rapidly in the late 19th Century and it has been important since that time. But it is really in the last 20 years that its development has outpaced most Western cities. It has become a cooler place (not literally, sadly) due to the tech boom and its sponsorship of the film industry. Furthermore, any story of Toronto’s tremendous growth would not be complete without its thriving immigrant communities — a fact which speaks to the Raptors’ incredibly diverse fan base.
All in all, I’ve noticed a pride in its residents that was not there before. I don’t sense any trace of the inferiority complex which was palpable when I first went there in 1979.
We the North both draws from and builds this new confidence. It’s a pride-building statement for everyone. It doesn’t talk about nations or religion or race. It talks about an attitude of commitment and community. Outsiders maybe, but stronger for it.
Community is more important today than ever. I’m sure we all find ourselves talking about it with our clients all the time. Energizing communities in a positive way is everything. For kyu it is everything. It is the spirit of sei-katsu-sha. It is why we brought Atölye into kyu. It is why we are a collective.
The Raptors won the NBA with We the North on their shirts and six men on the court.
Michael Birkin, CEO of kyu