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Sports Illustrated and Canada Goose: A golden marketing opportunity

Bikini-clad Kate Upton gets frostbite

The barely-there Canada Goose logo is probably the last thing people will notice when the latest swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated hits newsstands this week, featuring a nearly-nude Kate Upton. But for the coat maker, the magazine cover is the golden egg of unpaid ads.

Wearing nothing more than a bikini bottom and a white, fur-trimmed Canada Goose bomber jacket, the cover fits the Toronto-based company's marketing strategy to a T: guerrilla marketers that don't take out mass advertisements, but instead rely on social media to create buzz.

More importantly, the business thrives on its loyal fan base, from dog mushers north of 60 to film crews working in below-freezing conditions.

Still, Kevin Spreekmeester, vice president of global marketing at Canada Goose, says he was "floored" when he found out about the magazine cover. The company knew the magazine was working with the jacket for its Antarctic bikini shoot, but not much else.

"Sports Illustrated is pretty tight-lipped. They won't tell you where it's going to be; if it's going to be. When we found out it was on the cover, the phone lines lit up," said Spreekmeester.

"You don't do a lot better than being on the cover of Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue," he added ."It's an iconic issue of an iconic magazine, and it positions us absolutely perfectly."

Canada Goose jackets, which cost anywhere between $300 to more than $1000, are now sold in more than 40 countries. In the earlier days, growth was strongest in Europe. The company now eyes expansion in the United States and Asia.

Part of their strategy is to effectively do trades, rather than pay for product placement. Last year, it signed on as sponsor for the Toronto International Film Festival.

This January, it became sponsor for the Sundance Film Festival, doling out 300 jackets for filmmakers and jury members and affirming its status as the “unofficial jacket of film crews everywhere it’s cold," says Spreekmeester.