Budweiser creates a statue calling for greater gender equality in hockey

Just a slapshot away from the Hockey Hall of Fame—which was men only until 2010, and still has only eight women inductees—a temporary statue is calling for better female representation in the sport.

Erected by Budweiser Canada and the Professional Women’s Hockey Player Association, “This Game is For Us All” continues a push for greater visibility and support for women in a sport where nearly half (46%) of all registered Canadian hockey players are female.

Created by Salt XC, the 10-foot long statue depicts a female hockey player leaning over the boards and cheering on her team. It sits almost directly across from the 17-foot “Our Game” statue created by Oakville, Ont. artist Edie Parker that sits outside the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The new temporary statue was erected just ahead of the HHOF’s Nov. 15 induction ceremony, which will see three-time Olympic gold medalist Kim St-Pierre become the eighth woman inducted into the Hall.

Budweiser Canada first partnered with the PWHPA in 2019, when it created a video set to Stompin’ Tom Connor’s “The Hockey Song” that showed how women are often excluded from the game’s iconography and coverage, as well the hundreds of millions of sponsor dollars that flow to the men’s game.

Senior marketing director Mike D’Agostini said the partnership was born out of the recognition that the beer brand, a longtime National Hockey League sponsor, had been focused on the men’s game for too long.

“We believe that not only the players and the leagues play a role [in elevating the women’s game], but the sponsors play a role too,” he said. “Hockey is an important platform for Budweiser, it always has been, and we realized the need for us to do more. We love the game of hockey as a brand, and we want to make sure it’s for everyone.”

Budweiser has committed to using its platform to spotlight the PWHPA and promote PWHPA games (beginning with the upcoming All-Star Tour); working with partner restaurants to air women’s games; and encouraging customers to share their support for women’s hockey using the hashtag “ForTheGame.”

Its iconic Bud Light Red Light now works with PWHPA game streams, and it is updating the exterior on some of the Red Lights with “This Game is For Us All” messaging. The Red Lights have been a runaway success for Budweiser since their 2013 introduction, with D’Agostini saying that more than 30,000 are in use in households.

In both tone and message, the “This Game is For Us All” statue feels reminiscent of the New York’s famed “Fearless Girl,” which originally showed a young girl standing fearlessly in the path of the Wall Street’s iconic “Charging Bull” statue. Commissioned by State Street Global Advisors for International Women’s Day in 2017, “Fearless Girl” was designed as commentary on gender diversity in the workplace.

The statue became both a huge tourist draw and a marketing sensation, winning four Grand Prix’s, including Titanium, for McCann New York at the 2017 Cannes Lions  “I’d be lying if i said we didn’t take inspiration from that,” said D’Agostini. “It’s one of the most iconic marketing [programs] ever, and for sure it played a role in inspiring us to think about what this could become.”

Jayna Hefford (pictured), a four-time Olympic Gold medalist and current operations consultant for the PWHPA, said in a release that female athletes don’t receive either the same visibility or funding as their male counterparts. The release points out that while the NHL received $676 million in sponsorship revenue for the 2020-21 season, there is still no viable professional women’s league in Canada.

And while the average NHL salary sits somewhere around $3 million, female players will receive as little at $2,000 for a single season.

D’Agostini said Budweiser has seen its affinity among women increase since it first started working with the PWHPA, but stressed that the program wasn’t developed to solve a business problem for the brand. “We are not doing it to move the needle with women; that’s a by-product of doing these things,” he said. “We’ve done the right thing as a brand in the hockey space, and it’s had a positive business impact.”

It’s increasingly incumbent on brands to use their platform to speak out on societal issues and has become table stakes for any brand hoping to connect with younger consumers, he said. “They expect brands to take a stance and have a position.”

Other agency partners on the program include Veritas Communications for PR and overall campaign strategy/ideation, and Dentsu for media.

Chris Powell