Imagine you’re from Canada. (I know, it’s tough to be that polite, but you can do it.) Now imagine you’re a beer.

  Russ Gillow - who played two years of minor league hockey back in the 50s - became our icon for the kind of real dedication Molson believed in. We found him and got him to sign the release about 6 hours before we went on press...

Russ Gillow - who played two years of minor league hockey back in the 50s - became our icon for the kind of real dedication Molson believed in. We found him and got him to sign the release about 6 hours before we went on press...

Okay, now, imagine you want to sell yourself to beer drinkers in America during the winter – what do you want to focus on?

Hockey, right?

Because Canada invented hockey, right? (I know, I know; if you’re Russian, you dispute this. Fine. Hire me to create some brilliant Russian Hockey marketing and change my mind…)

But here’s the thing – in the United States, there’s a little brewery named Anheuser-Busch that owns the rights to every NHL logo, every AHL logo (they’re the minor leagues for hockey), every player’s organization, the pour rights in every stadium, every conceivable marque and image and, oh, you get the picture. They wrote a big check and everyone even remotely connected to hockey sold them their rights. (Hell, they even owned the Hanson brothers from “Slapshot”. No, for real…)

So what do you do? Well, if you’re Molson, you drop the problem on my desk and say “Figure it out, smart guy.”

Turns out that after doing some research and factfinding, that there still was something that Molson had rights to that A-B hadn’t gobbled up. The Hockey Hall of Fame. It’s in Toronto and apparently Molson was one of the founding sponsors that helped build it. There’s even a Molson Theatre in the middle of it.

Bingo.

We offered Molson drinkers the opportunity to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fans inside the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. To be inducted, standing next to the Stanley Cup, in the beating heart of hockey, by Hall of Famer Guy LaFleur and Bobby Hull.
And then, as if that weren’t enough, to sit in the Molson Theatre and watch game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals with Guy and Bobby.

Now, that’s a pretty cool prize, right? But I’m not interested in just the prize. I’m interested in the bigger idea. What does this mean for Molson? It means that Molson is about real hockey. Not fake, glitzy, star-athlete hockey. We’re about the sweat and blood and tears of hockey. Molson is from Canada and it’s about real hockey.

  Stanley Cup, HHOF Member Guy Lafleur, Happy Hall of Fans Inductee, and HHOF Member Bobby Hull.

Stanley Cup, HHOF Member Guy Lafleur, Happy Hall of Fans Inductee, and HHOF Member Bobby Hull.

So we used real imagery from the Hockey Hall of Fame archives – tracking down guys who’d played hockey decades ago to get their permission. We brought Hall of Famers from Hockey’s golden age to area bars. We sponsored events and games and activities that explained that Molson was the heart and soul of hockey.

Heck, the idea was so strong and resonated so well that we even managed to work Bob and Doug Mackenzie into the mix when the client decided they should be the brand’s spokesmen.

Did it work? Molson had it’s strongest winter ever – in off-premise sales, in on-premise sales, in features, and authorizations and incremental displays.

  Huge activity in the on-premise, tremendous excitement throughout the system. For a while, Molson owned hockey in America.

Huge activity in the on-premise, tremendous excitement throughout the system. For a while, Molson owned hockey in America.