The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way Kitchener residents were able to gather, socialize, and celebrate during the winter months of 2021. Restrictions limiting physical connections and event cancellations resulted in depression, anxiety, and social isolation among community members. Reimagine Winter was an initiative to help residents feel part of a connected and caring community through a series of fun and safe winter experiences aimed at strengthening and renewing community connection and well-being.
The City’s Reimagine Winter campaign helped to provide opportunities for residents to stay active and engaged with outdoor and virtual indoor programming and events, as well as ways to stay connected online. In some cases, new opportunities were created specifically for Reimagine Winter, while others were existing programs and assets the City of Kitchener typically provides. Some existing activities were repurposed or adjusted to fit the restrictions presented during the pandemic. All of these activities and initiatives were listed in one location on the City’s website.
An online map was also created to allow residents to find opportunities nearest to them, while health and safety guidelines were instructing people to stay in their own neighbourhoods.
Programming and events combined free scheduled and on-demand options, under three main groupings:
Communication objectives for Reimagine Winter aimed at promoting available options as well as improving a sense of connection and belonging among residents during the winter months. The messages and programming had to balance promoting a feeling of togetherness for the community with the challenges of changing COVID restrictions and safety messages being released by all levels of government.
Since the target demographic for Reimagine Winter ranged from youth to seniors and included individuals, couples, and families, the marketing had to have a wide variety of tactics. This was achieved by using paid campaigns through social media (top 5 campaign ads had a combined reach of over 50,000 people and 157,000 impressions) and digital options, and radio, television, and print ads.
The City was also able to freely promote Reimagine Winter through its social media accounts, established mailing lists of a number of program newsletters and websites (Kitchener Market, Love My Hood, Downtown Kitchener), in the Kitchener Life publication (distributed to 60,000 homes), and physical signage at arenas and community centres.
Additionally, the City’s media relations helped to achieve coverage on Global News, CBC, CTV News, and CityNews for the overall collection of programming, while some creative adjustments of programming were also covered (Pop-up Presley was a travelling performance that made its way across Kitchener over a number of weeks). Examples of marketing success can be seen through the number of views for the entertaining promotional videos created for ice skating, tobogganing, winter trails, and virtual cooking classes (combining for over 33,000 views on Facebook and YouTube) and pageviews for the online listing of Reimagine Winter offerings (over 5,000).
The success of the marketing was also reflected in the high attendance for scheduled programming and views of free virtual programming videos, which continue to grow to this day (videos for yoga, strength training, Kids in the Kitchen, for example, all have over a thousand views each).