We were pleased a few years ago when our media folks advised us that they had negotiated a free promotional activation with the CBC.  We were to receive a promotional tie in with Hockey Night in Canada (HNIC) for our Subway client.

All we had to do was produce a 30 second commercial and tie it in to HNIC.  The spot would run during the highly rated Stanley Cup playoffs.  Our client was happy and so were we; but time was tight.

So we developed a few promotional ideas, all of which our client liked.

Then we learned that the CBC would have to approve them too.  So, we quickly organized a conference call with the CBC and our client in the US.

We pitched the ideas.  All of which the CBC rejected.

It seemed that our tie in with HNIC could not include any of the following:

  • Use of HNIC announcers
  • Use of HNIC music
  • Use of NHL players
  • Use of any NHL footage
  • Any referenced to team names
  • Any reference to the Stanley Cup
  • And there was no budget to use any current players

Right then!  What could we use?  Well the HNIC logo… not a lot to work on.  And our call was over.  Our client, understanding the urgency, asked for another call the next day with new ideas.

It hit us that night to go the antihero route.  If we couldn’t use any of those valuable properties, let’s go guerrilla.  I phoned a former NHL player I knew, Richard Brodeur, with a novel idea.  Richard was a goalie with the Vancouver Canucks and had performed incredibly in helping the Canucks to their first Stanley Cup final.  But they lost.

So, as we say in Canada, Richard never got his name on the cup.  Our idea was to provide some collectible cups in Subway stores with outstanding NHL players, who never got their name on The Cup, but now would have their name on a cup.  Of course we would never mention the Stanley Cup, but by inference, everyone would know.

Richard thought the idea was fun and was willing to participate.  He also said he would call a couple of other players who were similarly in the wrong places and never made it to winning the cup.

The next morning we pitched the idea and everyone loved it.  Because it complied with all the restrictions, the CBC couldn’t say no.

We developed a 30 second TV commercial to run during the playoffs and also designed in store point of sale and some plastic cups.  We still have a few around.

Our thanks to Richard and Marcel Dionne for having a great sense of humour about their playing days.  They were great to work with.  The CBC, not so much.

At the end of the day, the promotion was a great success, driving sales without any apparent endorsement from hockey, the NHL or the Stanley Cup.

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