With Bedard and two sets of hockey brothers, Hyundai goes big for NHL puck drop

Who: Hyundai Canada, with Innocean for strategy, creative and media; OPC for production (directed by Jon & Torey); Smile & Wave for post-production; Kook Colour for colour; Toast & Jam for music and sound.

What: A new wave of French and English TV/online video spots timed to coincide with the start of the NHL season, all under the auto company’s five-year-old brand platform, “Made for Those Who Drive Hockey.”

When & Where: A total of three spots are currently running during Hyundai’s third period sponsorship of Hockey Night in Canada, as well as TSN/RDS’ regional coverage of the Edmonton Oilers, Ottawa Senators, and Montreal Canadiens, with additional social content rolling out over the rest of the season.

Why: While last year’s marketing prioritized introducing Hyundai as an official NHL sponsor, the focus this year will be on deepening the emotional connection between the brand and Canadians, with hockey as the “connective tissue,” said director of marketing, Christine Smith. “We felt there was an opportunity to connect our products to the game of hockey in a real way,” she said.

The brand is doing that in a couple of ways: By using emotion to show the crucial support of the “drivers” of hockey—the parents, siblings, friends, junior coaches etc. who are the sport’s unsung heroes—and by using gentle but relatable humour to showcase individual products and features, such as the Palisade’s “third row penalty box” seating.

When the NHL first approached Hyundai about a sponsorship opportunity in 2021, it singled out some of the prior work the brand had done under the “Made For Those Who Drive Hockey” platform, such as 2018’s “The Wilsons” featuring a hockey family who used a Hyundai Santa Fe to drive their son, a future NHLer, to games and practices, and “My Hockey Mom” which focused on the vital role moms play in the sport.

Since its 2018 debut, “Made For Those Who Drive Hockey” has had a discernible impact on brand opinion, familiarity, and consideration, said Smith. “An old marketing trope is ‘Be a brand that people want to hang out with,’ and if you can put a more human face on your brand, and connect with people at a real level, that helps.”

How: The new creative assets include English and French versions of a 30-second spot featuring rookie phenomenon Connor Bedard—who signed a four-year sponsorship deal with Hyundai earlier this year—entitled “Strength in Numbers,” as well as an English-language spot featuring real-life NHL siblings Matthew and Brady Tkachuk, entitled “Sibling Rivalry,” and an identical French spot featuring Laval-born brothers Pierre-Olivier Joseph and Mathieu Joseph.

“Strength in Numbers,” which celebrates Bedard’s NHL debut, focuses not on the player himself, but the army of people who made his career possible: From the parents who drove him to games and practices, and cheered from the stands, to the coaches and even the arena support staff. (The creative approach aligns nicely with a statement made by Florida Panthers coach Paul Maurice that made the rounds on social media this week, in which he said that a player’s first game is not theirs, but belongs to the people who helped make it possible.)

A shot of Bedard in his Blackhawks journey making his way down the tunnel towards the ice is accompanied by the super: “Success is the sum of everyone who helped you along the way,” before transitioning to a series of pictures from his youth hockey days. It’s somewhat reminiscent of Canadian Tire’s “Team Photo” spot featuring Jonathan Toews from nearly a decade ago.

The Bedard spot is being supported by a pair of humour-led spots featuring the Tkachuk and Joseph brothers and their real-life moms. Both spots are a built around the same scenario, with a mom driving her unseen kids to a game in a Palisade—featuring a license plate reading “Wah,” a subtle nod to the company’s mainstream marketing—and admonishing them for fighting in the back seat.

When she finally pulls the car over, it’s revealed that they’re not kids but full-grown NHL stars, one of whom gets banished to what Hyundai describes as the “third row penalty box.” “It’s authentic storytelling,” said Smith, who singled out both real-life hockey moms, Chantal Tkachuk and France Taillon, for their performance. “It’s nerve-wracking for a lot of people when you’re put in camera, but [they] were real naturals.”

Smith hinted that the Joseph brothers might also appear in future work, specifically because of their appeal among French Canadians. Quebec is a “huge” market for Hyundai, and it’s important for its advertising in the market to provide French representation, she said. Plus, she said, there is an authentic connection between the brand and the Joseph family, who used an Elantra to get to games.

And we quote: “[Bedard] is at the head of the spear, but there are a number of people who ultimately got him to where he is today. There is that group of people who pushed him forward and made him the incredible person he is.” — Ian MacKellar, executive creative director, Innocean

Chris Powell