Manitoba's new brand: 'spirited energy'

First it was "Sunny Manitoba," then "Friendly Manitoba" — and now Manitobans are filled with "Spirited Energy," according to a $2.1-million branding campaign unveiled in Winnipeg.

First it was "Sunny Manitoba," then "Friendly Manitoba" — and now Manitobans are filled with "Spirited Energy," according to a $2.1-million branding campaign unveiled in Winnipeg.

The campaign – organized by a volunteer group the Premier's Economic Advisory Council – was launched on Wednesday in a splashy media presentation at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

A television advertisement, a website and a team of young ambassadors will be used to try to persuade Manitobans to stop deprecating themselves and start touting the province's good points to each other and the world.

Local businesses chipped in more than $500,000 for the rebranding campaign, while provincial taxpayers kicked in the rest.

The two-minute television ad is a collage that features images of a girl fiddling, a vibrant downtown Winnipeg, hydro dams, Manitoba rivers, native dancers, a hockey game and the faces of smiling Manitobans.

Nine university students will spread the campaign's message at events and festivals around the province this summer.

Robert Ziegler, who co-chairs the group behind the campaign, said it's going to take a lot more than $2.1 million to accomplish the goal of raising Manitoba's profile locally and elsewhere.

"If you look at Saskatchewan, they've spent $14 million for their campaign. Montreal has a budget of $23 million for that," he said.

"We have to balance the resources we have, and it really is partners, community involvement. So it's not enough money to make it work, but Manitobans have a spirit — when we want to make something work, we'll find a way."

D. G. Brian Jones, a marketing expert who grew up and studied in Manitoba — and now teaches business in Connecticut — agreed that more must be done.

"You're talking about changing culture. That takes a long time. It takes a lot of money," Jones said. "It's not going to happen overnight."

Another campaign planned for fall

The summer campaign isn't the end of the rebranding plans. Peter George, head of the marketing agency behind the campaign, said a new phase with a different look will launch in the fall. That phase has yet to be developed.

"I doubt seriously that we'll go back with the same campaign again," George said. "This campaign is just to introduce the brand."

George said it was too early to say how much it would cost, because it depends on how much the private sector kicks into the project over the summer.

If businesses don't pony up, the government will likely foot the bill, George said.

"My own impression is that the government wouldn't invest in this kind of program without seeing it through the long term," he said.

Some people have predicted this type of cultural shift campaign could take 20 years.

How much money is the government willing to pay?

"Certainly doing nothing is not acceptable," said Premier Gary Doer. "The business community has said that loud and clear."