As the annual Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition hits newsstands this week, with buxom cover model Kate Upton leaving much of her upper body exposed, it's a good bet that the jacket she's wearing won't be the first thing readers notice.
But a Canadian company is still plenty excited about the, ahem, exposure. Ms. Upton posed in Antarctica, and the cozy coat she barely wears is a Canada Goose original.
The magazine appearance is not a paid product placement, but fits in perfectly with the York, Ont.-based company's marketing strategy. Now sold in more than 40 countries, Canada Goose's early growth was actually strongest in Europe, meaning that other markets such as the United States are seeing their most important periods of growth right now. (Asia is another growing region.)
The pop culture impact of the swimsuit edition is perfectly timed for the company's attempts to build up its American consumer base: Canada Goose sales doubled in the U.S. last year, and the company is forecasting 50-per-cent growth in 2013.
However, the people behind the brand have consciously stayed away from much traditional advertising, and have kept the marketing budget small. Canada Goose has instead benefited from unpaid product placements such as this one, especially in movies.
When the company does do paid advertising, it attempts to capitalize on that cachet: last year it signed on as sponsor of both the Sundance film festival and the Toronto International Film Festival, and has launched an ad campaign touting it as the "unofficial jacket of film crews everywhere it's cold."
"People hear our story, and hear about the quality, the authenticity, that we are like the Swiss watch of outerwear – made in Canada where outerwear should be. People are drawn to authentic products nowadays," said president and CEO Dani Reiss.
Still, the Kate Upton photograph does not show the company's logo – something Mr. Reiss noticed immediately. But he believes that because the brand is named in the photo credits, and because the logo is clearly visible in another photo leaked online, the promotional value is there and people will seek out the coat.
"The look of the jacket itself, looks like a Canada Goose jacket even without the logo," he said. "There's so much hype around the swimsuit issue. … We're all extremely excited around here."