Who: Stella Artois and Uninterrupted Canada, the sports (and now music/entertainment) content brand that officially launched last year.
What: A new online video series that is part of the beer brand’s “Rally for Restaurants” program. The series is built around videos starring high-profile Canadians from the worlds of sports and music talking about a favourite restaurant in their community.
When & Where: The online video series launches today, with a second video debuting later this month and additional content pieces scheduled to appear early in the new year. The videos are housed on Uninterrupted’s YouTube channel, and are also being distributed across its social channels. Bell Media is also amplifying the videos on its own social channels as part of a partnership between the two companies.
Why: Stella Artois has made helping the restaurant industry a central plank of its marketing during the pandemic, including a previous partnership with Toronto Life on a video series called Chef Artois.
The videos are intended to drive further engagement with the program, which asks people to purchase gift cards for hard-hit restaurants that can be redeemed once the pandemic is over. As of September, more than 14,000 gift cards totalling more than $600,000 had been sold through Rally for Restaurants.
How: The program evolved out of discussions Uninterrupted Canada had with Stella’s parent company, Labatt, shortly after its 2019 launch, said CEO Scott Moore, the longtime sports media executive who launched Uninterrupted in Canada with Vinay Virmani. “They’ve been very aggressive in [developing] what they call a ‘publisher’s mindset’ of owning, distributing and creating content that is complementary to their brands,” he said.
The original intent was to develop a program around the idea of a night out with friends, but that idea was waylaid by the pandemic. “We re-engaged with them and said rather than doing something around the original concept, let’s do something that specifically supports Rally for Restaurants,” said Moore.
The videos range from six to 10 minutes in length and features well-known Canadians like NHL star Evander Kane, retired Olympic ice dancer Tessa Virtue, and hip-hop star Kardinal Offishall (see his debut video below). Each video features one of the celebrities explaining their personal connection to a specific restaurant within their community, and interviews with restaurant owners explaining their establishment’s origins and philosophy.
What I like most about it is that it’s story-driven,” said Moore. “For the most part it’s a very soft sell, as most branded content is. You want to try and mix authentic storytelling with a subtle but effective call to action. It’s about the story of the athlete or artist, and the fact that most of us have a connection to some local restaurant that we consider our favourite, and we want to be supporting them however we can.”
Wait, is that another Tessa Virtue ad appearance? Yep, she’s been busy since announcing her retirement—also currently appearing in ads for both Buick Canada and Kashi. “She’s a gem to work with, just a lovely person,” said Moore. “In a spokesperson… you always want to find somebody the audience connects with, and she’s been great at that during her career.”
On brands as content producers: “What I really like about what Labatt is doing is that they’re taking control of their own message,” said Moore, who likens it to the early days of TV and sponsored programs like Texaco Star Theatre. “Labatt has really decided to make it a major part of its strategy, which I think is really bright. It means you can control the type of messaging you want, you can tell stories that are authentic to your brand.”
On Uninterrupted’s push into entertainment: Kardinal Offishall is the first star from the entertainment industry to work with Uninterrupted. “We think it’s a perfect expansion of the brand,” said Moore. “It’s a good start for us [and] we want to see what else we can do. We want to make sure that it’s not rushed and it’s done authentically—like everything else with the Uninterrupted brand.