Crisp Air and Crispy Chicken: KFC Crafts the First-ever Winterized Basketball Court

KFCourt 2023 Regulation Size Bucket KFC

The court’s “hoops” are NBA regulation-size replicas of KFC’s iconic chicken buckets.

Embracing cold weather is a way of life for Canadians. So with a 360-degree “KFC Buckets Are Life” campaign to hype, and the knowledge that basketball is Canada’s fastest-growing sport, KFC spotted an opportunity. Enter: the KFCourt, the first-ever winterized basketball court, where shooting buckets and eating buckets of chicken align under one “roof”—Toronto’s Gardiner Expressway. The winter-friendly installation, located beneath one of the country’s busiest highways at The Bentway, opened up to the public on Jan. 26 and runs through Feb. 22, with special events and appearances slated to add some sizzle to the monthlong activation.

To feed fans’ bellies, and their love of hoops, KFC Canada designed the KFCourt experience to be simple and accessible. Consumers can book a 45-minute private slot for $5, the proceeds of which will be donated to local charity Jump Thru Hoops, or stop by on “public pick-up days,” free of charge. KFC is additionally donating court time to local basketball community groups to run their training programs. Naturally, the court is open rain, snow or shine, seven days a week.

nbc-sports-snow-day-2022-today show_teaserMore Cold-Weather Activations:

Upon arrival, attendees sign a waiver, then receive a pre-warmed basketball. From there, they’re free to play games, brush up on their skills with local ballers and engage with staffers, who are prepared to hit the court if attendees request their participation. And here’s where it really gets finger lickin’ good: the KFCourt “hoops” are playable NBA regulation-size replicas of the brand’s iconic chicken buckets. As if that isn’t share-worthy enough, participants can also purchase limited-edition No. 11 puffer jerseys—a nod to KFC’s famous blend of 11 herbs and spices. When fans aren’t competing, they’re invited to indulge in samples on select days and snag an Uber Eats promo code for a future order.

“We’re always striving to do things that are really breakthrough,” says Azim Akhtar, director of marketing at KFC Canada. “The goal and the intention behind this campaign was to help drive consideration with sports fans, and specifically with basketball fans, to continue to drive penetration and build the brand with new audiences. We thought this was the perfect opportunity to combine the shared love of buckets with KFC and with basketball in a very authentic way.”

KFCourt 2023 at the Bentway_full footprint_800x550

The KFCourt is located under one of Canada’s busiest highways, the Gardiner Expressway.

To deliver an impactful, buzz-generating campaign, the fast food giant is relying on several key partnerships to support its efforts. Pepsi is sponsoring an on-site warming center and providing attendees with refreshments throughout the program, while Live Nation is bringing in dj talent for evening performances on select weekends. KFC also enlisted players from local Toronto team the Scarborough Shooting Stars to make appearances, as well as NBA star Gary Trent Jr. of the Toronto Raptors, affectionately referred to by fans as a “walking bucket.”

Of course, building an outdoor basketball court in the midst of a Canadian winter was no run-of-the-mill project. The KFCourt was crafted with a special nonslip fabric and coated with an extra layer of nonslip paint. Lights and other fixtures were also custom designed to withstand the outdoor elements, particularly wind. And when it came to the buckets themselves, KFC pulled out all of the stops to ensure fans felt like they were playing a typical game of basketball, right down to the sound of the “swoosh” the net makes when someone makes a basket.

In addition to the winterized court, the Buckets Are Life campaign is rolling out across social, TV, OLV, OOH (a giant KFC bucket is coming to downtown Toronto) and via partnerships with sports publication The Score, “The Raptors Show” on Sportsnet and content platform BarDown on TikTok. Plus, through the KFC App and on KFC.ca, consumers can save $5 when they spend $25 on game nights, beginning Feb. 13.

“Experiential, especially for this campaign and for us to authentically connect with basketball fans, was really important to us,” says Akhtar. “We wanted something where every single basketball player who’s a true hooper would be like, ‘I love that. I would actually go to it. I can imagine those days where I wanted to play outside in the winter and I couldn’t.’ So we felt like this was us putting our best foot forward to represent Canadians in the basketball community.” Agencies: Narrative (production, creative); 10West (fabrication).

More Scenes from the Installation:

Photo credit: KFC Canada

This story appeared in the Spring 2023 issue
Kait Shea
Posted by Kait Shea

Kait joined EM in 2015 and today enjoys her role as senior editor, digital content. When she’s not in reporter mode, rocking mermaid pants at Comic-Con or running laps at MWC Barcelona, you can find her at home listening to music.
View all articles by Kait Shea →

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