Karen-Kelar

1. What does a Director of Brand Alliance do?
As a connector and a builder, I have been asked to lead and champion the growth of the Air Canada brand partnership business for Bookmark. As “brand matchmaker” I will oversee the strategic development of creating fully integrated, mutually beneficial, brand alliance partnership experiences for Air Canada in collaboration with global and Canadian brands – all within the luxury and lifestyle category. The overarching goal of all brand partnerships will be to ensure that the Air Canada customer receives an elevated experience throughout their entire passenger journey.

2. What attracted you to Bookmark?
Bookmark had been on my radar for a while. I had been aware of their work and was keenly interested in once again, aligning with a global content marketing company. I was lucky to have attended Air Canada’s 75th anniversary celebration at the Shangri-La in Toronto and was able to experience first-hand, Bookmark’s innovative work. Since that time, I have enjoyed watching their continued successes and admired their strong relationships with a roster of international brands.

3. What aspect of your new job are you most looking forward to?
Hands down, being able to work exclusively, with one of Canada’s most iconic brands – Air Canada! As our national airline, it is both an honor and a privilege, to be able to share my time between Bookmark and Air Canada’s offices and have the extraordinary opportunity to learn everything about their business. I’m especially thrilled since it’s in a vertical (travel) that I am so personally, passionate about!

4. What do you like to do in your spare time?
I am passionate about travel and am very much a cottage girl. Most importantly though, I am a very hands-on auntie of 3. As they say….“it takes a village to raise a child” and thankfully, I have been warmly welcomed into that village. I take my auntie role very seriously and enjoy spending quality time with my nieces and nephew. To me life is all about making memories – so exposing them to new opportunities and sharing in experiences with them – that’s all critically important to me.

5. Tell us something surprising about yourself?
Finnish was my first language – not English. Apparently, I started talking at the very early age of one and a half and was quite the little chatterbox. Neighborhood children would point to me and ask my mom to “make her talk” as if I was some real-life wind up doll. My father is not Finn and pretty much at any given time, had absolutely no idea what I was going on about. We did share one word — keinu which means swing. I was obsessed with swings and the feeling of flying. We lived across the street from a park and every day, when my father would get home from work he would say keinu and off we went.

6. What are your top 5 must-see destinations?
Tel Aviv
South Africa
Maldives
Greece
India

7. What is your favorite thing to do in Toronto?
I tend to be on the move and find that I’m out and about quite a bit. That could either be meeting up with friends for cocktails, I like an old-school cocktail bar, or dinner, checking out the latest exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario or being outside hiking/walking. Toronto is truly blessed with an amazingly extensive city ravine and park system.

8. What’s been your career highlight so far?
While at WME/IMG I had the good fortune of working with the Gretzky family. Wayne is a Canadian icon and arguably, one of the greatest hockey players, of all time! Wayne and his wife Janet, tasked me with negotiating their daughter Paulina’s first ever magazine cover, which ended up being with FLARE. While that particular issue, to this day, remains one of the brand’s best-selling newsstand issues, the initiative was hugely significant for me as it represented a door opening to the idea of a new career and my eventual transition into the world of media, specifically publishing at Rogers Communications.

At Rogers, I started out as the Director of Marketing on Chatelaine, Canada’s longest running women’s lifestyle brand and played an integral role in negotiating one of Chatelaine’s top performing issues featuring the “Gretzky Girls” with Janet, Paulina & Emma Gretzky on the cover. This was hugely significant for me as well, as it perfectly represented my two worlds coming together. The blending of sports & entertainment marketing with media & publishing. A reminder that one’s skill-set can be transferable and certainly transcend industries.

9. What is the one piece of advice that has helped you get where you are today?
Always come from a place of curiosity. Be inquisitive. Ask questions. Listen. Listen hard. Listening leads to learning. It’s incredible what nuggets you will be able to glean. As Albert Einstein famously said “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” Brilliant.