Budweiser and Hockey Diversity Alliance shine a light on racism in hockey

Who: Budweiser Canada and the Hockey Diversity Alliance, with Anomaly Toronto for strategy and creative, Veritas Communications for PR and influencer, Salt XM for experiential, and Dentsu Canada for media.

What: “#TapeOutHate,” a campaign from the brewer helping the Hockey Diversity Alliance pursue its goal of eliminating systemic racism and intolerance in hockey. It includes hockey tape bearing the message “Racism has no place in hockey” and the hashtag #TapeOutHate.

When & Where: The campaign is led by a two-and-a-half minute video that debuted on social media, and across Budweiser’s owned and operated channels, accompanied by a 60-second version that appeared during Saturday’s Hockey Night in Canada telecast.

Budweiser Canada-sponsored NHL teams the Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets, will also feature the #TapeOutHate message on rink boards in their respective arenas.

The campaign has already generated more than 250 million earned media impressions since its Jan. 8 launch, the most for any Budweiser Canada campaign “by a fairly large margin” said Budweiser Canada’s senior marketing director, Mike D’Agostini.

Why: Willie O’Ree broke the NHL’s colour barrier 64 years ago this month, but there continues to be a lack of diversity in hockey—at both the professional and grassroots levels.

Former NHLer Akim Aliu, who is of Nigerian and Ukrainian descent, created the Hockey Diversity Alliance in 2020 with a goal of inspiring “a new and diverse generation” of hockey players and fans. “At the top, we will educate and encourage accountability from our leagues and leaders,” says the organization’s website. “At the grassroots level, we will work to ensure hockey is accessible to anyone who loves the game.”

Budweiser has also been working to increase female representation with its “This Game is For Us All” platform, while Scotiabank’s “Hockey for All” platform is also aimed at increasing diversity in the game at a grassroots level.

How: The powerful video features Hockey Diversity Alliance members such as the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Wayne Simmonds and Colorado Avalanche’s Nazem Kadri relaying some of the racial slurs they’ve endured during their playing days. While the slurs are blurred out, it’s easy for viewers to make out the hateful language.

“We thought was very important to [show] the reality of what these players have to deal with all too often,” said D’Agostini. “Campaigns like this are going to make us uncomfortable, but we need to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, because at the end of the day that’s how we’ll grow and change, and inspire conversation.”

The ad also features the Hockey Diversity Alliance members gathered together, discussing the lack of representation in the sport and urging the public to get involved and advocate for change. “We’re only so many within this game. We need other people to speak up for us,” says one. “Silence is not an option.” (The comments section of the video on Budweiser Canada’s YouTube channel shows why the discussion is still necessary.)

The tale of the tape: The program was originally conceived by Budweiser and Anomaly more than a year-and-a-half ago, using one of hockey’s most ubiquitous items, stick tape, to deliver a message about racism.

“A lot of campaigns have great films attached to them, but what we think is super-powerful about this idea is that [the tape] is a tool that is in dressing rooms from the pros all the way down to rec leagues,” said D’Agostini. “If it sparks even one conversation in the dressing room around the need for the game to be for everyone, then we’ve done our job.”

The tape is available at Budweiser’s online merch store, ShopBeerGear.ca (the initial run of #TapeOutHate tape sold out within six hours of the campaign launch), while Canadian Tire stores across Canada will begin carrying it on Jan. 22, with $1 from each sale going to support the Hockey Diversity Alliance.

And we quote: “Budweiser has a long history of supporting hockey, and as a brand that believes this game is for us all, we recognize the obligation we have to continue to learn and evolve with the game to make it better for generations to come,” said D’Agostini. “The goal of #TapeOutHate is to educate, raise awareness and spark meaningful conversations about intolerance in the sport, and encourage Canadians to collectively become allies in the evolution of hockey culture.”

Chris Powell