Saturday, January 16, 2010

FlagWalk: Walk the World

Those of you who’ve visited South Granville or Yaletown in the last couple of months may have already caught on to this.

While walking to Red Door on South Granville from West Broadway to 14th last night I noticed what appeared to be flags of different countries painted on the concrete pavement. My initial thought was that it was some kind of promotion for the Olympics. I also thought perhaps it was a creative attempt to celebrate Vancouver as a multicultural, multi-ethnic city. Whatever the reason, I was intrigued enough to take a photo of every single flag I walked by. It was kind of fun trying to guess the country of each flag (...I failed miserably) but I had to stop after about five blocks or I’d end up on the Granville Bridge to downtown. I decided to make a collage with the ones I did capture and this was the result:

(I realize there are a couple of duplicates but I wanted to make a complete square =P)

Well, my predictions were wrong. After some online research I discovered it is neither a City nor VANOC promotion for the Olympics but a $250,000 marketing concept called FlagWalk implemented by Yaletown and South Granville business groups. Hit hard by the recession, South Granville and Yaletown businesses took advantage of the Olympic hype and partnered up in hopes that the idea will attract more attention and business from locals before the games begin. There are more than 450 decals, as they are called, placed in alphabetical order representing 80 countries participating in the Winter Olympics. Spanning a distance of almost 4 kms, FlagWalk creates a walking route connecting Yaletown and South Granville for tourists and spectators coming to Vancouver. The expectation is that they will be curious and follow the flags, which will take them through some of the city’s most unique neighbourhoods and lure them to specific business districts. So while it is a way-finding tool, it is very much a marketing tool as well. I just discovered the FlagWalk blog and interestingly enough, their most recent post also claims that “FlagWalk is about peace and friendship – nothing more... nothing less.” Hmmm. I’m not sure about peace and friendship, but the flags definitely succeeded in getting my attention. In fact, I was so absorbed in studying them and taking photos that I was completely oblivious to the shops around me. As far as commercial branding goes, I’m not entirely sure if the idea was a good approach, but I definitely find the concept unique. The flags will be removed in Spring 2010.

For anyone who likes to enter contests, Flag Walk is hosting a "Walk the World" contest on their website in which the Grand Prize winner gets a trip around the world for two. And if you upload your flag pics on their Facebook page you can get a free set of 80 Flag Walk buttons! To learn more, you can visit their site, follow their blog, Facebook Page and of course, Twitter.


  1. Fantastic photo collage, Helen! I, too, had wondered about the decals, and just assumed it was a VANOC promo. Interesting to hear that it's in fact the merchants. I wonder if this constitutes an infringement on the IOC brand?

    Thanks again,


  2. FlagWalk has VANOC approvals and blessings.