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

From Karen Howe’s dining table: Creativity, COVID and Cannes

ICYMI, The Township's founder gathers the best of the best campaigns and trends so far.

Cannes Base Camp

By Karen Howe

I’m attending Cannes from the glory of my dining room table. There’s not a palm tree in sight, yet inspiration and intel are present in abundance.

Cannes Lions is a global cultural pulse check. The social course correction in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and BLM has delivered far greater diversity in the judging panels as well as the work. And we are all better for it.

I’m proud to say that creativity defeated COVID, which speaks to its power. Great work and big ideas flourished, despite unimaginable odds.

The work from the past two years spans a vast emotional range. From the profundity of Dove’s “Courage is Beautiful” to the hyper exuberance of Burberry’s “Festive,” they are opposite ends of the spectrum, but each answered a need in us.

Take note, the ascendency of gaming cannot be understated. Smart brands have embraced the channel. It makes sense, because gamers participate to meet others around the world, not just to play. And they represent a huge and powerful community. That’s why QSR Wendy’s gamified their iconic gal in RPG’s Feast of Legends.

Burger King sponsored the unknown Stevenage Football Club, transforming the team into online heroes and vaulting BK into the fray at the same time. Once again, the brand embedded itself in culture.

The birth of gaming tourism arrived when Xbox snuggled up to travel guides and created a brilliant baby: a travel guide for gaming worlds. It, too, embedded itself in culture.

From the standpoint of social good, Reporter Without Borders showed how it worked with Mindcraft for its “Uncensored Library” to bypass press censorship, with Minecraft providing a loophole to a space where young people could be educated. It provided youth with a powerful tool to fight oppression: truth.

COVID changed us in unexpected ways. We learned how to pay attention again and there was a notable lack of 30-second commercials. Instead, longer format content thrived. Apple’s WFH was seven minutes long. Entertainment reigned king, so we find ourselves returning to our advertising roots.

Seeing competitive brands form partnerships was one of this year’s other great surprises. The brilliantly simple “Beer Cap Project” by Aguila to reduce binge-drinking saw the brand reach out to competitive beers to join in. Aguila put incentivizing (keyword: free) reminders to drink water, eat food and get home safely on its bottle caps from all sorts of fast food chains, ride-share co’s and H2O brands.

On a personal level, I’m so proud of Canada again this year. Given that it was two years of work from all over the world being judged, even making the Cannes shortlist was an accomplishment. Canada is herding in the Lions in tremendous numbers – and it’s not even over. Fingers are crossed.

KAREN-HOWE-PIC-higher-rez-300x263Karen Howe is a Canadian Cannes Advisory Board Member and founder of The Township Group