CCM arouses interest with sperm spot

There are those who would venture that the average Canadian male spends even more time thinking about hockey than he does thinking about sex. Which is why you've got to stand up and salute the new television campaign from CCM just...

There are those who would venture that the average Canadian male spends even more time thinking about hockey than he does thinking about sex. Which is why you’ve got to stand up and salute the new television campaign from CCM just a little. How many other advertisers, after all, have thought to combine the two?

Not that CCM has gone soft-porn on us, or anything. But by employing animated sperm in a series of spots that launched in February, Canada’s most venerable hockey equipment brand hopes to arouse the passions of the sport’s enthusiasts, and provoke a surge in product sales.

"CCM has been around for a long time, but we weren’t surprising people," says Len Rhodes, global brand manager with The Hockey Company of Westmount, Que., which manufactures and markets CCM equipment. "We weren’t standing out of the clutter… [So] the mandate here was to bring a level of freshness to the brand."

With a heritage that stretches back to 1899, CCM enjoys tremendous equity in hockey circles. Today, however, it’s a brand facing considerable challenges, the most daunting of which can be summed up in a single word: Nike. In the past several years, the sports equipment behemoth has crashed the hockey category with all the single-minded determination of Jaromir Jagr on a breakaway, acquiring the Bauer brand as well as pushing its own line of gear.

"Nike are taking a very aggressive stand in hockey," says Leon Berger, chairman of the product advisory board with Montreal-based Marketel McCann-Erickson, The Hockey Company’s agency of record. "When they enter a game they want to dominate it. So CCM, which is a very traditional brand, was in danger of being seen as a bit dusty."

Before commencing development of the campaign, The Hockey Company undertook a major brand mapping exercise. The CCM brand, they concluded, stands for all the traditional values of the game: fair play, team spirit, pride and passion. Its principal competitor Bauer, by contrast, stands for aggression, provocation and rugged physicality. "It’s a little bit dark and mean," Berger says.

So how should CCM counter that? By turning to the dark side itself?

That, says Berger, was never really deemed a serious option. Rather, the challenge was to find a way of communicating the brand’s traditional values in a manner that would seem relevant to today’s young hockey fanatics.

"We didn’t have a lot of money and we had to make an impact," he says. "We had to appeal to the kids. And we knew we couldn’t do traditional-style hockey advertising, because they’d just say, ‘Boring.’"

The essential character of the CCM brand is best summarized by the new slogan that Marketel developed for the campaign: "When you’re born to play." Some people, Rhodes explains, just have hockey in their blood; they live for the game. And that’s the CCM target. For these true believers, the brand has always been there, and always will be.

Easily said. But how do you get this idea across in a television ad?

Ultimately, Marketel hit on the device of using cartoon sperm to illustrate the "born to play" concept. "We thought it might be too far over the edge for [the client]," Berger says, recalling the creative presentation. "But they loved it."

In all, the agency produced four 15-second spots. Each one features a group of sperm fighting it out to be the first to reach the egg. Their wrigglings are accompanied by a typical hockey broadcast-style play-by-play. As the lone successful sperm arrives at his destination, the announcer cries out, "He scores!" (That’s followed by a brief, rapid-cut montage, featuring images of players in CCM equipment, and then the slogan.)

Rhodes says the TV campaign departs from standard CCM practice by not putting the primary focus on the equipment itself. Nevertheless, the creative concept is one that the entire brand team embraced enthusiastically.

"It was unique and different and it got our attention," he says. "But…it also spoke to our values, positioning and heritage."

The campaign is running on a North American basis – a first for the company. The spots broke on CBC and ABC during the NHL All-Star Game in February, and thereafter were aired during hockey broadcasts in selected Canadian and U.S. markets. For the duration of this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs, they will again run nationally in both countries, on CBC and ESPN.

Why 15-second spots instead of 30s? Berger says the creative idea simply worked better in the shorter time frame. Besides, opting for 15s allowed CCM to produce a whole series, rather than just a couple of spots, thereby adding to the impact of the campaign.

In addition to the television spots, the campaign incorporates print ads in targeted publications such as The Hockey News. The print work is product-focused, but does incorporate the "born to play" slogan.

At this point, it’s still a little early to gauge the effectiveness of the campaign. Rhodes does, however, note that the company’s salesforce has reported a significant rise in product bookings by retailers. And he predicts confidently that this ongoing brand effort will increase the number of consumers walking into stores and asking for CCM product by name.

"We’ve had feedback from salesmen, telling us that people in the marketplace are talking about [the brand] in a way they haven’t for 10 years," he says. "So that’s very encouraging."

Also in this report:

- Shorter formats a double-edged sword: By opting for spots of 15 seconds or less, advertisers can stretch their advertising dollar — but they may also be contributing to the problem of clutter p.TV1

- Painting the smaller canvas: How creatives make their mark in 15 seconds or less p.TV4

- Red Rose resurrects brand with funeral spot: Retires "Only in Canada…" tagline in favour of "A cup’ll do you good" p.TV6

- Ford Focus puts the squeeze on credits: Sponsored previews of top-rated shows in bid to give campaign added impact p.TV8

- Jetta campaign a brand-new love story: Automaker bids farewell to popular Phil and Loulou characters p.TV10

- Is TV worth the money? p.TV12

- BTV blurs line between editorial, advertorial: Companies featured on business show pay about $10,000 for repackaged material p.TV13

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