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Rapper Drake stands on the court at the end of the first quarter as Toronto Raptors take on Brooklyn Nets in NBA basketball action in Toronto on Saturday January 11 , 2014.Chris Young/The Canadian Press

Nike Inc. has begun playing up Russian imagery in its advertising in the lead-up to the Olympic Games in Sochi – an example of a tactic known as "ambush marketing" that will be closely watched as official sponsors and other marketers alike try to capitalize on the buzz of the Games.

An ad released over the holidays featuring Team Canada player Drew Doughty tries to stoke Canadian pride with the message that Canadians own hockey. The ad, entitled "all ice is home ice," features sly references to playing in other countries – including a shot of a cheering fan with the Russian flag painted on his cheek.

The ad skirts Olympic advertising rules by avoiding images of the rings, or direct references to the Games. And it is not the first attempt from Nike. In November, it released an ad called "Play Russian" – the launch of its "winter campaign for the Russian market" paying homage to the athletes that the country has bred, including hockey star Alex Ovechkin.

Nike has used this strategy in the past: In 2012, it produced a campaign with sly references to London.

If it is successful, the brand could create the impression among consumers of a link between Nike and the Olympics – without the steep sponsorship fees that a legitimate marketing partnership would cost.

It ads up

Even as companies' advertising budgets are under pressure, Canada's advertising industry, and related fields, continued to grow modestly in 2012, according to numbers released this week by Statistics Canada.

The yearly report tracks operating revenues of advertising agencies, public relations, media buyers, advertising flyer distributors and others. Here are some of its findings:

$7.13-billion: operating revenues for the advertising industry and related services in 2012

2.9 per cent: growth in operating revenues compared with the year before

10.2 per cent: average profit margin for the industry

57.7 per cent: industry operating revenues generated from Ontario

23 per cent: revenues from Quebec

8.5 per cent: revenues from B.C.

The Drake and Sid show

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment has hired an advertising agency to lead the rebranding of the Toronto Raptors.

Sid Lee Toronto announced this week that it will be responsible for the multiyear rebranding project, including designing the new visual identity of the team – such as a new logo – as well as new uniforms.

The agency has done other work with MLSE lately: It produced a series of commercials to celebrate this week's announcement that Toronto FC had hired high-profile player Jermain Defoe away from Tottenham Hotspur, in a bid to strengthen the struggling soccer team.

Executives from Sid Lee have already met with rapper Drake, whom MLSE named last year as the Raptors' new global brand ambassador, to discuss his role consulting on the rebranding.

Other such relationships – like BlackBerry's recently terminated "creative director" Alicia Keys – have been called into question by industry experts who doubt celebrities' marketing expertise.

However, agency president and founding partner Vito Piazza believes Drake is the right fit for the sports organization as it seeks to rebuild its image.

"In that meeting, it became clear that he takes it very seriously, and he knows what he's talking about," Mr. Piazza said.

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