Ivey marketing jumps into Dragons’ Den

The Richard Ivey School of Business is hoping a few dragons will breathe fire into their new marketing campaign.

Ivey recently started running commercials during CBC’s hit television show, Dragon’s Den. The show features Canadian entrepreneurs looking to impress five so-called ‘dragons’ or investors with their pitch on the next big idea or product.


“The essence of Dragons’ Den is about creating opportunity in business, whether you’re an entrepreneur or a corporate intrapreneur,” says Eric Morse, Associate Dean, Programs, at Ivey. “Dragons’ Den is a great catalyst to get prospective students or participants thinking about their potential.”



The commercial says “great businesses just don’t happen by accident” – it takes leadership, and Ivey is the next step on your path to success, says Morse. “The spirit of entrepreneurism threads throughout all of Ivey’s programs, so it’s a natural fit for us.”



Ivey is home to the Pierre L. Morrissette Institute for Entrepreneurship which has been a supporter of this initiative. Ivey also runs a Quantum Shift executive development program each year for successful high-growth entrepreneurs from across Canada.


It also helps that outspoken dragon, Kevin O’Leary, is an Ivey grad (’80).



Morse says O’Leary has been a keen supporter of the school, returning annually as a guest speaker. He also voices his support for Ivey in media interviews and gave a plug for his alma mater on the show this fall.



“We can’t afford to buy that kind of exposure – and it’s much appreciated,” says Morse.


Running commercials on the small screen is a different approach to marketing, deviating from traditional print or radio ads. However, Ivey continues to use these methods to promote its MBA and Executive MBA programs.



Rob Way, Associate Director, Marketing and Communication at Ivey, says the first two months of the campaign have been “very encouraging,” with more commercials to run in 2010.


“Ivey invested in Dragons’ Den on the basis of it being a cost-effective way to build broader visibility and brand awareness, so success is largely determined by the show’s audience numbers each week, which continue to track above what CBC promised,” says Way. “Dragons’ Den is one of CBC’s most highly watched shows, right up there in audience ratings with Hockey Night in Canada, and The National.”



Audience numbers in the 25- to 54-year-old age group have averaged 849,000.


In its two-month commercial run, Ivey has seen great response to its “Idea is Just the Beginning” website, which is tied to the television campaign and banner ads on the Dragons’ Den website.   


“Television is not new media, but it certainly generates buzz and word of mouth with students, faculty and alumni, which re-inforces pride in the brand, the school, and its future,” says Way. “Being seen alongside Cadillac and Rogers reinforces the high-quality of the Ivey brand.”


Ivey is the exclusive business school sponsor of the show. With no other business schools running television commercials in the same way, Ivey is breaking new ground, he adds.