Now that the lockout is over, Molson Canadian (the official and exclusive beer brand of the NHL) is back running regular NHL activation such as its ‘Pro For A Day’ competition which offers fans a chance of a lifetime to experience the NHL hockey players lifestyle.
Simply by registering for the Molson Insider programme online, consumers are in with a chance of a day that includes practice, autograph, picture and Q&A sessions with current and former pro players, arena and locker room tours at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre or Hockey Canada’s WinSport HQ in Calgary, plus a meeting with the team’s nutritionists and trainers, an actual game in front of friends and family as well as food and drink.
But back in late 2013 and early 2013, during the dark lockout days, Molson Canada worked hard to find alternative hockey spaces to shift its attention to and activate around. It looked to other leagues and other tournaments around the world. But this brought its own particular and peculiar marketing challenges. After all, while some of its alternative hockey was fairly local (like the American Hockey League), other action was found in far flung and distant lands – like Russia.
The International Ice Hockey Federation’s annual World Junior Hockey Championship kicked off on Boxing Day in Ufa, Russia and hungry hockey fans across Canada were particularly keen to support Team Canada and watch their favourite young players compete.
But the 11 hour time difference meant that broadcast time in Canada was at around 4am – resulting in something of a wake up challenge for deprived Canadian hockey fans in the heart of the winter.
So Molson Canadian decided to help consumers and fans get a dose of hockey amidst the NHL blackout by offering a free wake up call to fans.
The NHL’s beer brand teamed up with host broadcaster TSN, which showed the games live and re-broadcast Team Canada games noon and 7.30pm, so the wake up calls themselves were from TSN hosts Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole before every game.
So Canadians who didn’t want to rely on their alarm clocks, simply had to sign up online on the Molson Canadian campaign website, select the games they wanted to be woken for, enter the mobile number they wanted the alert sent to and then fall asleep with the confidence that they’d receive the branded complimentary wake-up call and thus wouldn’t miss any action on the ice.
The initiative was developed in tandem with agency Rethink, Canada, with media by MEC and PR from Harbinger.
For TSN, activating around the tournament made sense as it was a major platform for the organisation. After all, it was the first time TSN has acted as host broadcaster for an event in Russia and the network had a crew of 50 in Ufa covering the tournament, plus another 50 working on the broadcasts in Toronto.
For Molson Canadian finding some hockey action to activate around was possibly even more important. Not least because the brewer was discovering that Canadian hockey fans weren’t drinking to drown their NHL hockey blackout sorrows.
Indeed, Molson Coors went public about its frustration with the lockout’s affect on sales, saying that while the financial impact of the NHL labour dispute was difficult to tabulate, but admitting that losing its key cold-weather driver of sales had hurt sales.
‘Whether it’s people not actually physically going to the venues and consuming there, consuming in venues around the outlet before that, or indeed having NHL sort of parties at home, all of those occasions have disappeared off the map and you just can’t replicate them,’ said Molson CEO Peter Swinburn.
Swinburn also clarified that once the lockout was over Molson Coors would indeed seek financial compensation from the league over the negative impact that a lack of NHL games has had on the hockey league sponsor.
‘There will be some redress for us as a result of this. I can’t quantify that and I don’t know because I don’t know the scale of how long the lockout is going to last.’
This campaign was both personal and useful on an individual basis. It also added extra value for fans in desperate need for hockey.
A similar approach has been used by other sponsors backing teams and events played out on the other side of the world in awkward time zones. O2 offered wake up calls and breakfast for England fans during the last Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. See http://www.activative.co.uk/sport/o2s-get-up-for-england-rwc-breakfast-giveaway-2212
Molson is a brand that has a track record of activating through hockey lockouts. For example, during the previous 2004/5 season blackout the beer brand ran ‘Bring Hockey Back’ TV spots featuring fans pleading for the return of the game and singing along to pop songs such as Culture Club’s ‘Do you really want to hurt me?’
and ‘What a feeling’’
Pro For A Day Website