Four years ago this month, Vancouver hockey fans were riding high on the Canucks’ spectacular playoff run. But the defining moment of those 9 weeks wasn’t Burrows’ overtime goal that squashed the Hawks or Bieksa’s sneaky shot that propelled his team into the finals. Instead, it was after the Bruins lifted the cup, when angry spectators started a riot that caused millions of dollars worth of damage to downtown businesses.
The riot made for exciting images and headlines, but more thrilling was the way thousands of Vancouverites spontaneously appeared downtown and volunteered their time to help clean up the damage. The cheap wooden boards installed over broken windows became a blank canvas for Vancouver to do the Canadian thing – say sorry.
While the city streets looked like they were back to normal, downtown Vancouver’s reputation was hurt. The businesses that had already lost so much were losing customers by the day because fewer people were visiting the downtown core. The Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association leapt to action to show everyone that their neighbourhood was still an inviting place to visit. That’s when we launched the Vanlover campaign.
The Vanlover campaign was simple, but effective. It captured Vancouver’s faith and pride in their city and replaced the negative online attention with something positive. It also restored a vibrant, buzzing atmosphere to the downtown core - one that was unaffected by images of violence and destruction. To accomplish this the DVBIA encouraged Vancouverites to show their love for their city by posting the Vanlover heart icon on their home or business. They also encouraged people to come downtown to do the things they’d normally do, like shop and dine, as well as share their experiences online. #Vanlover
As a result, negative online impressions of Vancouver quickly returned to pre-riot levels, and downtown foot traffic went back to normal. Summer sales of impacted business were up approximately 10% over the previous year, due in part, to the exposure these businesses received from the Vanlover campaign. In the end, the defining moment of that playoff run wasn’t the overtime goals or the rioters, it was the way we all stepped up and showed each other how much we care about our city.
#VANLOVER This story is part of a monthly series highlighting milestone events or evolutions in downtown Vancouver’s history over the past 25 years in recognition of the DVBIA’s silver anniversary. See all the stories to date.