Molson’s reminder that hockey is Canadian

Who: Molson, with Rethink for creative and strategy, Wavemaker for media, Skin and Bones for production and Citizen for PR.

What: A new campaign for Molson Canadian and Molson Export that dives deep into the brewer’s happy place: hockey.

When & Where: The new advertising dropped last night, coinciding with the start of the pandemic-delayed NHL season. TV will run throughout the season (which will stretch well into summer) with a focus on game nights. It also includes digital, social, out-of-home and radio. The Export creative runs in French and English in Quebec, while the Canadian work runs across the rest of the country.

Why: Last summer, Molson introduced the new brand platform “Rep our home,” which directly appealed to Canadians to support Canadian beers—an implicit shot at Budweiser and its number one status in Canada. The activation for the platform at the time was the “most Canadian case of beer ever.”

After that, the focus shifted to hockey said Rethink creative director Dhaval Bhatt. Molson has long been a hockey brand, but Budweiser has made a concerted effort to score with Canadian fans in recent years. “[Hockey] is part of the Molson DNA,” said Bhatt. “But sometimes what happens is—as much as it is part of your DNA—you sometimes have to reignite that part. And I think this is about that.”

How: The campaign is being launched with three humorous TV ads: two for the Canadian brand running nationally outside Quebec, and one for Export in French and English for Quebec.

The Canadian ads, called “It’s complicated Pts. 1 and 2,” depict various scenarios in which hockey fans’ love of the game can lead to awkward situations—like a Leafs fan moving into an Ottawa Senators neighbourhood, or being a Canadiens fan who marries into a Boston Bruins family.

The voiceover delivers the clear message that Canadian hockey fans should drink Canadian, along with a thinly veiled jab at Budweiser. “We get it, it’s complicated,” it says. “But you know what’s not? Repping Canada’s game with a Canadian beer. Not baseball’s beer. Not America’s beer. Our beer. Hockey’s beer.”

The Export ad, “Here’s to the real ones” (“Salut les vrais”) presents similarly funny depictions of fans obsessed with the Habs, minus the pointed shot at Bud. It also brings back the classic Molson ad jingle “Ex says it all” with new lyrics for 2021. “Ex salutes you,” is the closing line from the new version.

“In ‘Salut Les Vrais,’ we celebrate the fan who stops at nothing to watch the game, the fan who is seen as a little too intense to their friends, the fan who decorates their car, their toasted bread, their whatever-it-may-be with the team they cherish,” said Joy Ghosh, senior director, Molson family of brands.

On one level the ads are simply intended to bring a smile, said Bhatt. “I think the world can use a bit more levity right now… It is an ad for beer and hockey, and if that can’t be fun, I don’t know what can.” But it’s also meant to resonate with hockey fans on a deeper level. “It lets people know that ‘Hey we get you… we understand you and your relationship with the game.'”

A little serendipity never hurts: The campaign was planned before it was announced that the NHL would have an all-Canadian division this year, adding an extra layer of Canadian-ness to the NHL season. That was just serendipity, said Bhatt. “It doesn’t get more ‘our game’ than this season.”

And we quote: “During times of uncertainty, having hockey return with the advent of a Canadian Division helps bring more pride to our nation’s sport, it gives Canadians a chance to cheer as a country… It’s never been called Hockey Night in America, but our game has never felt so intensely ours.”  —Joy Ghosh, senior director, Molson family of brands.

David Brown