Behind the “Because It’s The Cup” Campaign for the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs

In 2010, the NHL unveiled a dynamic campaign to promote the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Each 30-second commercial showed historical moments from playoffs past, with the moment suddenly played in reverse, ending with a “What if…?” question. The basis of the “History Will Be Made” campaign asked the fans the question of “If it wasn’t for these iconic moments, what would we remember?” The campaign was so successful, that it not only drove interest and television viewership during the playoffs that year, but connected with fans on an emotional level and inspired them to create and post their own versions of the TV spots to YouTube, generating more than 2,400 fan-created commercials and more than 8 million total views. Last year, the “History Will Be Made” campaign showed moments from the playoffs straight forward, ending with a “History…” statement. The basis of that campaign asked the fans “What does history create when it is made?” Now in a dynamic shift to lure in casual and non-hockey fans, this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs promotional campaign uses the tagline “Because It’s The Cup.”

Brian Jennings, NHL executive vice president for marketing, said to Sports Business Journal Daily, “In an attempt to attract casual hockey fans and sports fans who aren’t partial to hockey, league marketers are trying to turn the Stanley Cup playoffs into their own version of March Madness.

This year’s campaign capitalizes on the social connecting force of the Stanley Cup and the Playoffs. From old friends gathering in their living rooms to new friendships forged over a beer at the local pub to the fan connections created by discussions and debates on Facebook and Twitter, the Stanley Cup Playoffs has the power to bring people together to share in the excitement of each team’s quest to hoist the Stanley Cup.

The new campaign has three basic aims:

  1. Celebrating the Stanley Cup. The league’s research shows that even the most casual of sports fans identifies with the Cup as the ultimate prize of the NHL postseason. So along with ads that celebrate the chase for it, and those teams that eventually win it, the campaign will also deal directly with the hardware itself and the Cup’s quirky history.
  2. Team-Specific “Because It’s The Cup” Ads. Like the “History Will Be Made” campaign, this new promotion will tailor ads to specific teams. Some of these ads cater to diehard fans, while others strike a more populist tone.
  3. Socialization of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. For years, the NHL has tried to make the playoffs a time for parties, bar viewing and hanging with friends on your rec room couch. That’s all communicated in this facet of the campaign, that seeks to capture casual fans in the excitement of the playoffs by showing them how fun it is to hug people after goals.

The shift from “History Will Be Made,” which was directed at avid fans, to “Because It’s The Cup,” which is aimed at casual and non-fans, was based on research among casual and non-hockey fans showing that even those who could barely name a player on a team other than their own still have a knowledge of and appreciation for the Stanley Cup’s heritage.

That recognition is our opportunity to take advantage of. If we are going to get new fans, this is the time of year to do it, when they can see the best hockey.”

In each 30-second commercial is a string of sentences, each one beginning with the word “Because.” For example, the first ad of the “Because It’s The Cup” campaign entitled “Two Halftimes”:

Because it’s good to get together over something cold.

Because it all started as a good excuse to go out on a Wednesday night.

Because in hockey, there are two halftimes.

Because when somebody’s playing every night, that means you can, too.

Because It’s The Cup.

In print ads, for example, one ads shows a picture of St. Louis Blues forward David Backes ready to take a faceoff. The caption reads “Because you can’t take your eyes off of it.” Another ad shows a picture of Philadelphia Flyers forward Claude Giroux battling for the puck on the boards. The caption reads “Because every inch is worth fighting for.” And if you recently stopped by the NHL Store powered by Reebok in New York, you can see more examples of the power of the campaign. A photo of Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas says “Because every inch counts.” A photo of Detroit Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk says “Because you can see magic every night.” A photo of Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin says “Because its more than 8 ounces of frozen rubber.” And a photo of New Jersey Devils forward Zach Parise says “Because he’s chasing more than the puck.” And then there are the ads that are self-explanatory: the ones that feature Lord Stanley’s mug. There’s one that says “Because the next chapter is about to be written.”  And there’s one that says “Because once you pick it up, you’ll never want to put it down.” 

To put it in short, there’s a reason why during this time of year, overtime continues for another 20-minute period until the next team scores. There’s a reason why fans in Detroit throw an octopus on the ice before a game. There’s a reason why 18,000-plus fans in Vancouver wave white towels in the air in support of the Canucks. There’s a reason why you hear “God Bless America” in Philadelphia instead of “The Star-Spangled Banner”.  There’s a reason why fans pass around a large Canadian flag during the playing of “O Canada” in Ottawa. There’s a reason everyone in  Winnipeg is wearing a white shirt, or a red shirt in Washington And there’s a reason why grown men like to grow facial hair during this time of year. There’s a reason why we do all of this. Because It’s The Cup.

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