Canadian Content We Love: The Courage Polar Bear Dip

The start of a new year often means trying new things, like buying a gym membership that you’ll totally use, or wading into a freezing lake for a good cause.

Every year, hundreds of people take part in the Courage Polar Bear Dip and bear the icy waters of Lake Ontario on New Years’ Day to help provide clean water to developing countries. With the help of World Vision, the annual dip has raised over $1.4 million for water projects since 1995. Here are a few reasons why this year’s campaign is worth the plunge:

Pre-Media Relations

To build anticipation, the founders of the dip, brothers Todd and Trent Courage sent out a news release highlighting its past and expected success for 2016. Including quotes from participants and quick facts about the event gives media all pertinent information that will help them craft a story in a pinch. They also released a media advisory, which highlighted interview opportunities. Courage and World Vision also invited media and the public to participate in a pre-dip, which was shared live on Breakfast Television in Toronto and on YouTube.  Watching average people run into ice-cold water makes for great TV…and content! 


Sharp social strategy

The Polar Bear Dip has presence on the three big social platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – and used it to mobilize participants and encourage spectating, donations and social sharing. They created a Facebook event for the dip in November, which allowed the group to track interest and benefit from Facebook’s notifications system. When an event is coming up that you’ve been invited to or declared interest in, Facebook will remind you to sign up and give you event updates from the host. This helped Courage communicate event details and have a stream of communications that a news feed just can’t guarantee.

The hashtag #PolarBearDip, which can be used on any of its social channels, incites participants and organizations to share their stories and support prior, during and post-event. A shared hashtag with other groups allows Courage and World Vision Canada to engage with a variety of audiences across the social sphere. Here are some of our favourites:


Lastly, Courage used Periscope to share the pre-dip live with audiences, giving those who could not attend a bone chilling feeling as participants brave the cold shores of Lake Ontario.

So how did they do this year? Over 800 dippers took the plunge and more than $130,000 was raised, bringing the lifetime total to $1.4 million. The event was covered by a variety of media, including Breakfast Television Toronto, The Hamilton Spectator, Huffington Post Canada,  The Oakville Beaver, Triathlon Magazine, Toronto Star, and CBC Toronto.

With the will to be adventurous and charitable all at once, the Courage brothers and World Vision put together a marketing campaign full of fun and that’s why it’s Canadian Content We Love.

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