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The United Steelworkers of Canada – Off the Podium

The United Steelworkers of Canada – Off the Podium


The Challenge

United Steelworks Canada (USW) approached Stratcom in February 2012 to help them launch a campaign to draw international attention to the poor labour practices of multi-national mining giant Rio Tinto, in worker lock out in the northern mining community of Alma, Quebec.

With Rio Tinto an official supplier of the metal for the Summer Olympic Games medals, we felt this was an opportune moment to help USW shine a light on the gaps between the Olympic values and Rio Tinto’s treatment of workers.

We needed to act quickly to create a campaign that could effectively “connect the dots” between Rio Tinto’s involvement in Alma, Quebec and the London 2012 Olympic Games. The campaign needed to be international in scope (i.e. reaching audiences in Australia, UK and the US as well as across Canada), while maintaining a concrete connection to the employee lockout in Quebec.

This campaign also needed to support the actions and engagement of USW members and its allies around the world, and involve a number of actions at key sites – mines, Rio Tinto shareholder meetings, and Olympic committee meetings across the globe.

The Solution

Stratcom and Pivot Design Group collaborated on this project and within a few weeks built the strategy, messaging, infrastructure and outreach plan to support a multi-country, multi-channel campaign. Developed and launched within a month, this creative and engaging campaign focused on online and social media, but also included the use of mainstream media and traditional communications tools and tactics (holding press conferences, inserting a public campaign presence at key events).

  • We worked with Pivot Design to develop a fully functional, interactive online campaign site www.offthepodium.org making linkages between Rio Tinto’s global track record and the recent lockout in Alma.
  • We created a website that was the hub for all campaign information and actions, including key messages and multi-media content about the campaign and a clear set of asks and engagement tools, such as an online petition and member toolkits to support offline activities, like rallies and marches.
  • The site encouraged visitors to take several actions: send a letter to the International Olympic Committee, share the content with friends, share their own comments via Twitter or Facebook, join the Action Team, or download any number of resources (fact sheet, posters, web widgets).
  • We developed media releases and collateral (banners, placards) for activists to use at press conferences and key events.
  • We created a plan for online marketing initiatives to drive visitors to the site (adwords, member outreach, email marketing via partner organizations).

The Results

Within the first few weeks, this campaign generated significant media coverage among major media in the UK, France and Australia as well as Canada.

The campaign’s main vehicle – the letter to the IOC asking for Rio Tinto to be removed as a sponsor – was sent by more than 15,000 supporters. Campaign events to raise its public profile included meetings of the International and National Olympic Committees, and Rio Tinto’s annual general meeting in London, UK.

Whether these efforts to get Rio Tinto “Off the Podium” will contribute to a fair resolution to the labour dispute in Alma, Quebec remains to be seen. But what we do know is that our campaign cut through in a short period of time, got the attention of media, the IOC and Rio Tinto executives, and mobilized thousands of individuals and organizations around the world to support the effort.

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