Sport Chek, one of Canada's largest retailers, has a long history of using paper flyers to reach customers. With only a 17% flyer readership, a bold experiment was launched to see how a digital-only approach would work. Sport Chek stopped the presses and replaced paper with pixels. What it learned provides valuable insight into modern consumer engagement.


  • Test the in-store sales impact of replacing print flyers with digital marketing
  • Increase online traffic and online in-store sales revenue


  • Replaced all national print flyers with digital advertising on the Google Display Network and Google Search over a two-week period
  • Measured the year-over year sales growth


  • In-store sales were up 14% and products that were specifically featured grew 34%
  • Sales in the second week were up 17%, demonstrating the power of digital marketing to be dynamic and flexible
  • 98% increase in e-commerce revenues and 39% increase in online traffic
  • Digital delivered both awareness and persistence that translated into consumer purchases
August 2014


Sport Chek goes dark on paper flyers; finds consumers prefer pixels

Sport Chek, Canada's largest national sporting goods retailer, has long relied on printed flyers to spread the word about its latest sales. But consumer behavior is changing, and when Sport Chek discovered that only 17% of consumers read its bi-weekly flyers, it began to make the journey toward digital. After running a few small tests that yielded positive results, the decision was made to go dark on paper flyers for specific periods in 2014 and test the effectiveness of an all-digital strategy.

Sport Chek worked with Google, Touche (Sport Chek's media agency) and other partners to help implement this strategy. One major concern Sport Chek had was that the paper flyer provides incremental "unexpected reach" to its current and prospective customers, and it needed to replicate this with digital. However, in discussions with Google, Sport Chek learned that the Google Display Network would be a more effective way to provide that "unexpected reach" and more.

During the test, sales results were monitored on a daily basis. Sport Chek, Touche, Google and other partners worked closely together to update and rebalance specific geographies and categories.

It's really simple—digital is easier to produce, it's completely measurable, it's more environmentally friendly, it sells product, it builds brand, and most importantly our customers love it.

The results reveal the effectiveness of digital advertising to drive in-store sales. For the period of the test, year-over-year comparable store sales were up 14%. Typically Sport Chek would also see a drop off in sales growth during the second week with a print flyer. During the second week of the digital-only test period, Sport Chek saw an increase of 17% in-store sales, demonstrating that digital delivers both awareness and a persistence, which translates into consumer purchases. Products specifically featured in Sport Chek's second digital flyer trial also experienced year-over-year sales growth of 34%.

Sport Chek's willingness to test pixels over paper is representative of how retailers can leverage online tools to drive in-store sales. Google and Sport Chek worked closely to ensure that the right message was delivered to the right users at the right time. The Google platform enabled this, optimizing in near-real time to ensure expectations were met—€”and exceeded.