Canada’s 150th Birthday Celebration: A Business Opportunity!


By Gary McGugan

Co-Author of the book NEEDS Selling Solutions, Gary McGugan helps companies grow profitably, drawing on his experience with financial services, automotive and power sports industries across the globe. He publishes articles regularly at
Co-Author of the book NEEDS Selling Solutions, Gary McGugan helps companies grow profitably, drawing on his experience with financial services, automotive and power sports industries across the globe. He publishes articles regularly at

Canadians tend to wave flags of patriotism a little less often than our southern neighbors, but it looks like 2017 may be one of those years where our national pride is prominently on display! A recent Google search of “Canada’s 150th Birthday” showed more than 27,000 stories already published about unique ways governments, companies, and civic groups plan to mark our nation’s sesquicentennial. It will be the biggest celebration in a generation. Does it present an opportunity for RV dealers to piggyback on celebratory enthusiasm, grow sales, and become stronger businesses? Definitely.

The Government of Canada started the ball rolling with its announcement last year that admission to Canada’s national parks would be free to people who applied for tickets. Thousands of Canadians signed up and will be traveling to visit some of the most magnificent scenery in the world. They’ll be thrilled with the experience. Many will travel there in RV’s, and some will buy those RV’s for the very first time.

Major Canadian corporations are jumping on the bandwagon. Honda will sponsor a Celebration of Lights fireworks show in Vancouver. Hudson’s Bay Company is funding a final connection of the Trans Canada Great Trail (longest recreational trail in the world). TD Bank Group will support green spaces by investing in 150 community spaces across the country. And Metro stores in Ontario will sponsor The Homegrown Tour celebration of Canadian food and music in Ottawa. These are just a few. Hundreds of other companies and groups will gradually announce plans to be great corporate citizens and capitalize on the community goodwill they will create.

What about RV dealers? Well, they already benefit from GO RVing’s sponsorship of Chuck and Danny’s Road Trip for the Food Network. The show will travel to various regions in Canada towing a brightly decorated 5th wheel and use an array of celebrity chefs to draw attention and viewers. Great exposure for the RV industry!  CTV recently told the story of Canadian artist, Tim Van Horn, setting out in May with 54,000 portraits displayed as a mosaic arranged in the shape of a Canadian flag on the side of an RV. He’ll stop at 150 locations across Canada. The federal government will also fund two other artists for what they call the “Red Couch Tour.” They’ll transport a red leather sofa from St. John’s to Victoria in an RV and record thoughts of Canadians while they lounge. There’s little doubt even more people will have great ideas to garner attention and celebrate the special occasion using RV’s.

Is Your Dealership Part Of The Celebration?

If you haven’t planned a way to capitalize on the 150th Birthday celebrations, you should. Just as companies who sponsor professional sports teams benefit from the emotional highs those teams create, RV dealers can profit from association with some of the emotional highs this generational event will produce. You should be alert to sponsorship opportunities. Getting your name before large crowds at very low cost is a great way to build community goodwill. Event participants will not only see your name and products, they’ll usually also hear your name from the event organizers as they thank you for your support. The message is magnified further when TV stations or newspapers carry the story.
Canada’s 150th Birthday celebration provides endless opportunities for advertising and promotion tie-ins. Maybe offer $150.00 discounts to celebrate the occasion. Perhaps $150.00 service specials. Or $150 for referrals of neighbors and friends. Consider a selection of parts and accessories all specially priced at $150.00 for a short period. With a little creativity, your dealership can find ways to promote and associate with this big event throughout much of the selling season!

Are You Targeting First-Time Buyers?

With increased interest in Canada’s national parks — and extensive advertising campaigns by provincial tourist associations to encourage travel — some dealers are anticipating a bump in first-time buyer sales. Conditions are ripe for such a trend. Employment numbers are improving. Fuel prices have been stable. Hard-hit economies are stabilizing. And observers at retail RV shows report large crowds and lots of curious non-owners. Your dealership might want to consider a campaign targeted towards new buyers featuring affordable entry vehicles and quality pre-owned units.
Remember, financing is a key component for the first-time buyer segment. Often younger than many of your current customers, first-time purchasers usually find promotions that feature low monthly payments appealing. Now is a good time to work with your lender to create attractive financing options that let new buyers focus on the comfort of low monthly payments that fit their budgets.

Ready For More Business In The Back Of The Dealership?

If forecasts are correct that RV owners will log more kilometers on their units this summer, almost certainly that usage will translate into more service repairs and replacement parts sales. Do you have a plan to attract more service revenue? Progressive dealers are finding ways to get in front of traveling RV owners. Specialty magazines that target RV users are an excellent way to get known by travelers. Some dealers are increasing their presence in social media, buying advertising with Facebook, and targeting RV owners traveling in areas near their dealership. Others are revisiting Google search engine listings to optimize targeted exposure. Some even use old-style media like billboards to keep their name boldly before the traveling public.

But it’s even more important to be ready to handle an increase in service – particularly during the crush of peak season. So, many dealers are already promoting specially priced pre-season inspections and service to get local owners in earlier and free up capacity to serve travelers later.

Dealers with good foresight have also already started staffing at higher levels, recruiting new technicians. Others have taken advantage of provincial apprenticeship opportunities to hire students with financial assistance from governments.

Have You Started To Nurture A Celebration Within Your Business?

To get the most from Canada’s 150th Birthday Celebration, the atmosphere in your dealership should reflect the grand occasion. It starts with getting your team excited about participating in the celebration and building a culture within the business that reflects pride, enthusiasm and optimistic spirit. Sit down with your people to talk about ways your dealership can improve. Discuss your employees’ ideas about making the dealership atmosphere more cheerful and welcoming. Seek input on things you can consider to make doing business at your dealership more fun for customers. Your team is a deep reservoir of good ideas to help your business grow. Draw on that reservoir often!

Of course, no one can predict with certainty how many people will participate in Canada’s 150th birthday party. Weather and unforeseen events can dampen enthusiasm locally and result in less participation than hoped. But one prediction is certain. If your dealership is not actively looking for ways to be part of the grand celebration, you’ll certainly miss out on any benefits the birthday party generates. I’d prefer to be at the front of the celebration line, waving a flag and blowing up balloons. I like the odds that you’ll see the best opportunities to grow – this year and for years to come.