Mercy Ships Canada and Partners Give Canadian Boat Lovers the Chance to Buy a Boat and Help Save a Life

On Friday, January 12, 2018, a team of marketing communications agencies led by Geometry Global will launch an awareness and fundraising campaign for Mercy Ships, a volunteer-run hospital ship that provides free life-saving surgical care to the world’s most impoverished communities. The new pro bono campaign, organized in collaboration with the Toronto International Boat Show, is designed to inspire Canadian boat enthusiasts to donate to Mercy Ships by tapping into their love of boats while empowering them to make a difference.

“When people hear about Mercy Ships for the first time, they’re amazed and usually happy to donate to our incredible cause,” says Tim Maloney, National Director, Mercy Ships Canada. “The problem is that most Canadians haven’t yet heard of us.” Maloney turned to Geometry Global Toronto to raise awareness and drive donations.

Geometry Global Toronto EVP, Executive Creative Director Nuala Byles and her team got right to work thinking about how to bring the extraordinary cause to Canadians. “We came across research that showed boating is a favourite pastime of millions of Canadians, with 43% of the population participating in the estimated $10 billion recreational boating industry. This research inspired our ideas. If anyone could appreciate this amazing floating hospital, it would be passionate boat lovers. So, we decided to partner with the Toronto International Boat Show to share the Mercy Ships story in an unconventional way.”1

More than 89,000 charities vying for donations within Canada

Mercy Ships is a one-of-a-kind organization, operating hospital ships that deliver free surgical care to impoverished children and their families. In Africa, where nearly 50% of people have no access to a hospital or doctor, that’s a life-saving mission. There’s no doubt it’s an inspiring ship with an inspiring story, but with over 89,000 charities in Canada vying for people’s donations, it’s hard to stand out. So the campaign focused on what makes Mercy Ships truly unique: the fact that it’s a hospital on a boat — or rather, a ship.

“I just bought a boat,” an interactive experience and fundraising exhibit

The “I Just Bought a Boat” exhibit will be at the Toronto International Boat Show, North America’s largest indoor boat show, from January 12 to 21, 2018, at the Enercare Centre in Toronto’s Exhibition Place. Nearly 80,000 boat show enthusiasts flock to the boat show every year in search of the latest boat innovations and technology. This year, they’re getting an extra big dose. The campaign teases the Mercy Ships story by showcasing the latest innovation in boats, an extraordinary boat with unparalleled features: she’s 498 feet long, weighs 16,572 tons, sleeps 474 people, boasts an internet café and even a swimming pool, comes with on-call medics and 5 state-of-the art operating rooms, and is available for just $20 or best offer. Once attendees arrive at the exhibit, they’ll discover that the boat is Mercy Ships and learn all about the floating hospital and its volunteers. They’ll also have the chance to buy the incredible boat — and help transform a life in the process. Through an interactive digital photo booth, boat lovers can custom-name their new vessel, instantly see the name appear on the stern, proudly pose for a picture on the boat, and then share on social media and boast what every Boat Show attendee wants to be able to say: “I just bought a boat.” The shareable pictures will include a link to a microsite (which will be live January 1, 2018),, where we’ll reveal, for the benefit of those not present at the Boat Show, that it’s not a boat, but rather a ship — and it’s not just any ship, but rather Mercy Ships. Through our microsite, people from across Canada can also buy and name their own boats and brag to their social networks that they, too, “Just bought a boat.”

Celebrity, philanthropist, and avid boater Joan Kelley Walker donates her support

The campaign will benefit from the support of the boat-loving celebrity philanthropist Joan Kelley Walker, made famous for her role on The Real Housewives of Toronto in addition to a multitude of other fundraising and philanthropic endeavours.

Walker graciously agreed to act as an ambassador for Mercy Ships, stating, “As I continue to devote my life to community and participate in various initiatives in helping others here at home and around the world, I am humbled to be able to support and add my voice to an important cause and organization like Mercy Ships. Their remarkable commitment and call to action have been able to rally thousands of professional volunteers from around the world for a common cause that is so important to improve the lives of individuals and their families in providing humanitarian aid and healthcare.”

Along with Mercy Ships volunteers, Walker will be present at the Mercy Ships booth (A1 located at the south entrance to The Lake in the Enercare Centre, Exhibition Place) on Friday, January 12, 2018, when the Toronto International Boat Show holds its VIP Preview Day from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Walker will also promote the campaign and organization by tweeting and posting on her various social media channels, where she enjoys a substantial following.

WPP Partner Integrated Campaign

To amplify this pro bono campaign, Geometry Global Toronto and WPP partners Ogilvy, Neo@Ogilvy, and Cohn & Wolfe created a media plan, social campaign, and PR campaign to drive traffic to the Boat Show and the microsite to create further awareness and drive donations for Mercy Ships. Non-WPP creative technology agency wonderMakr also donated their time to build the digital and physical experience.

About Mercy Ships

Mercy Ships uses hospital ships to deliver free, world-class health care services, capacity building and sustainable development to those without access in the developing world. Founded in 1978 by Don and Deyon Stephens, Mercy Ships has worked in more than 70 countries providing services valued at more than $1 billion, with more than 2.35 million direct beneficiaries. Each year Mercy Ships has more than 1,200 volunteers from over 40 nations. Professionals including surgeons, dentists, nurses, health care trainers, teachers, cooks, seamen, engineers, and agriculturalists donate their time and skills to the effort. Mercy Ships seeks to become the face of love in action, bringing hope and healing to the poor. For more information, go to


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