2- OVO/Welcome Toronto: New Tradition, Basketball, and Music - Jordan Zalis, Memorial University of Newfoundland

9:00 AM, Sunday 26 May 2019 (2 hours)
Coffee break   11:00 AM to 11:30 AM (30 minutes)

Today, “tradition” in Toronto moves like basketball, looks like OVO fashion, and sounds like Drake. Led by ethnographic work and socio-cultural, political, and economic analyses, this paper argues the merits of the multi-million dollar “OVO/Welcome Toronto” “We the North” community building campaign that links the city, “the Idea of North,” and sport in community development. Acknowledging hip-hop’s status as both basketball’s traditional music and North America’s leading commercial music type, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, owner of the Toronto Raptors basketball team, made Drake their global brand ambassador in 2013. Some six years later, 2018’s “OVO/Welcome Toronto” identity campaign produced six closely-curated, “immersive brand experience,” “We the North” themed nights. What I am calling an experiment in Gesamtkunstwerk, or, “art-work of the future” (Wagner 1849), the OVO/Welcome Toronto/We the North thing follows Potter’s (2009) recommendations in Branding Canada to (re)place compartmentalized expressive arts as multimodal festival events that integrate sport to address youth culture rather than the traditional art-forms that address the “elite.” In that, Toronto as “substitute” for both Canada and “The North” presents the nation as a complex, contemporary, hip, society. Upon considering the campaign’s adoption of this specific branded Northern identity, however, the celebration must be tempered with a set of critical questions and their analyses. What is Toronto’s place in Canada? How is social life organized in this idea of North's imaginary? If “this that new Toronto,” what was the old Toronto? What are their claims? Accordingly, the future is at stake!

Memorial University
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