Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Building brand identity 30 seconds at a time: looking at hockey commercials

Those who don't know hockey may think there's no difference among the teams; but each team is distinct: as much a product of their drafts and trades as they are their marketing departments. Among all major sports, the NHL has been found to have the most internet-savvy, and is one of the most encyclopedic, ever-growing video sports sites available.

There's four kinds of hockey marketing: 1) team produced; 2) NHL produced; 3) licensed broadcaster produced; and 4) sponsor produced. I could do a whole separate post on the cheesiness of sponsor commercials, where hockey players show off their acting ability while touting the prodcuts of the sponsors of whose names grace their arena's boards. In fact, the Atlanta Thrashers created a very funny spoof about bad hockey commercials:

The only fail about this commercial is that they didn't actually use the "" and turn it into some kind of spoof site to go along with the commercial.

Today, let's talk about team-produced hockey commercials and the impact they can have.

Good commercials drive product sales, but great commercials create buzz and get fans talking. They also help drive team or fan indentity, and can also create 30 seconds of off-ice time where fans can get the sense they know a player a little bit better, whether it's from seeing their sense of humor, or getting an idea of the player's dedication to the sport.

The Atlanta Thrashers are a good example this year. They've spent the past few years trying to build hockey credibility in a non-traditional hockey market. Their current ad campaign tagline is "A brutally good time", and their commercials are chippy and fun:

When commercials are good, people don't mind watching them - and they'll talk about them, and share them. This can have extended payoffs - not only by getting existing fans talking up your team, but drawing in new fans. As mentioned above, commercials can help build team identity and team image.

The best example of this is a recent Bruins commercial that we'll discuss, but for now, let's take a look at some highlights from the past couple of seasons around the league.

This year's Chicago Blackhawks "One Goal" commercials have changed from the funny to more serious. They start with the slowed-down version of "Here Come the Hawks" (a la Inception) and you see a player working at their skills, and a voiceover about their particular commitment to the team. Jonathan Toews talks about what he achieved last year, and says "That was last season." Duncan Keith says, "Last season, I left seven teeth on the ice. I have 25 teeth left." Here's the Patrick Sharp Commercial:

Compare it to typical "One Goal" commercials from 2008-09/2009-10 seasons:

The Blackhawks won local Emmys for their Niklas Hjalmarsson/Ikea and Coach Quenneville/"Great Lines" commercials, which you can find on the Blackhawks site. It's worth noting that the Blackhawks also seem to be the only team that keeps an active section of their video page dedicated to team commercials.

Like the earlier One Goal campaign, which combined hockey jokes with hockey dedication, the San Jose Sharks also recognized that hockey players have a sense of humor. The Sharks rolled out a series of commercials during the 2009-10 season that are continuing this year, with the tag line being "(Player) is a lousy (insert job here), but he's a great hockey player!"

They even got their coach in on the act:

The Detroit Red Wings had a surprising entry into the top hockey commercials this year, with their "Hospitality" commercial. The stage is set with the players doing all they can to make their opponents feel welcome at their arena - until they hit the ice, of course:

The commercial is a hit primarily because of how it pokes fun at the idea of being welcoming to other teams. While the commercial talks about welcoming opponents, it particularly focuses on the Blackhawks, who are the Wings longest and perhaps most hated rivals. The spot slyly suggests pampering for the other team, and ends with the expression that it's all for show, that the true "welcome" is in gritty, hard play. It's clever, it's funny, and even as a Blackhawks fan, I can't resent that they're poking fun at my team.

The New York Islanders have done two styles of commercials: humor, and dedication. The "Offsides" commercial, with the tagline "This is Islanders Country", clearly pokes fun at the Corona commercials, where the woman always seems to outsmart the man:

Their commercials from last season highlighted players' dedication to their role on the team; in this example, defenseman Andrew MacDonald talks about his role:

Last year's L.A. Kings commercial showed team dedication. Not sure what they're doing this year, as their website only had 2009-10 commercials, but this is a sweet commercial:

During the 2007-08 season, Dallas ran a campaign with the tag line "Come into the cold." Not sure what their recent advertising efforts look like, but they're an amusing set of commercials; here's a good one which humorously points out how tough the players are:

Hands down, however, for the current sharpest marketing department in the NHL has to be the Boston Bruins, who have created a set of ads known as "Bruins Hockey Rules", featuring "the Bear". The Rules commercials are based on a lot of unwritten fandom rules, and they're all fun to watch. They have almost no dialogue in them and end with tag lines like "Hibernation ends in October", "Hang up your phone and watch the game", and "Never tuck in your Bruins jersey".

They have even held a contest, encouraging fans to submit their own Rules, via (You can also view their entire collection of rules commecials via that site under "Bear Stuff".)

A couple of my personal favorites from the series:

How brilliant is the Bruins marketing team? Well, recently, a pair of ... well, let's call them idiots, shall we? - posted a video of themselves kicking a hole in a post in one of the ladies' rooms at the Garden. The Bruins marketing team had an immediate response to the act:

It was a perfect combination of the established brand identity of the Bruins bear, combined with an admonishment to those foolish "fans" who vandalized the arena.

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This post made Puck Daddy! 12/1/10

1 comment:

  1. Great writeup, HB. No argument with the Bruins' marketing team getting top honors with their media campaign this year. I hope the Blackhawks see the light and decide to lighten up their One Goal commercials a bit more next season. I think the slowed down tempo is antithetical to what you'd expect from the fastest, greatest game out there.


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