Red, white and beer at Molson Hockey House

The brand raises a pint to its new image at the site of the most-hyped sponsorship activation at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

VANCOUVER – It’s considered the hottest ticket in Vancouver right now, but Molson Hockey House is meant to be much more than a beer-filled shrine to our nation’s sport.

The House is a 65,000-sq-ft venue just south of BC Place Stadium (Olympics Ground Zero here in Vancouver) that is home to all things hockey at the Games. Molson Coors’ official activation, the House is both a place for hockey fans to celebrate the sport and for the brand to showcase its new ‘refreshed’ look. And make no mistake – although the faux stained-glass window depicting a hockey player invokes Canadian reverence for the sport, this activation is all about showing off Molson Canadian’s new brand strategy.

‘We wanted to express it in every touchpoint,’ Adam Moffat, director, external communications, Molson Coors, explains over the din of hockey mania at the House this week. ‘It really comes to life in here.’

The refresh of the brand, tied in to coincide with this larger-than-life activation, is the most carefully considered execution that the brand has planned in a long time, he explains. It started with a desire to strip the brand of pretence and create a look and media strategy that communicated honestly with the brand’s core fans by playing up its Canadian ingredients and reaching out to them one-on-one.

As most have seen in its new TV spots – which debuted during the Opening Ceremonies – the new Molson Canadian tagline is ‘Made From Canada’ and the grassroots theme runs deep in the media strategy and creative. On approach to the House, the ads play on large screens that frame a giant maple leaf, depicting a beer tap in a Saskatchewan field.

Inside, the nature theme is built into the bars that serve the newly-logoed beer with birch-bark back-bars and a stream that literally runs through the bartop. The bars frame the space, which is also decorated with comically oversized jerseys and more red and white than you can possibly imagine, a theme that patrons are more than happy to indulge in themselves.

The media strategy behind the refresh, Moffat says, started with an email from Geoff Molson to the brand’s ‘Insider’ mailing list, cluing members into the new ads before they were released to ‘everyone else.’ The goal was to create viral buzz around the ads online before they hit the street, and ‘reward loyal drinkers’ with a behind-the-scenes peek at the new look.

The strategy generated about 25,000 views on YouTube almost immediately, Moffat says, and it also encouraged fans to go to the Molson Facebook page to tell the brand what they thought of the ad. Most comments got a personal response from Molson, a social-media strategy – in association with the ‘Gear up for Gold’ personalized-jersey app Molson created – that took the page from 30,000 Facebook fans at the beginning of the month to almost 80,000 this week.

The goal is to create a ‘backyard for drinkers’ in the Facebook space, to move forward into a true engagement with its fans, Moffat says. Molson doesn’t just want to be people’s beer of choice, he says, but to be viewed as a tastemaker as well. As such, the goal is to treat the Molson Facebook page and Twitter feed as a ‘magazine,’ in which they share hot celeb tips, party info and behind-the-scenes info with their fans. During the Games, this is manifested in Facebook updates telling fans what Bryan Adams was up to backstage, or what hockey VIP showed up in the House that day.

The Hockey House is a partnership with Hockey Canada and the International Ice Hockey Federation and was executed by Toronto’s Vision Co. It, and the brand’s new look, are being promoted nationally with OOH, TV and print media by Mediaedge:cia and creative (including the ‘Gear up’ app) by Toronto’s Zig.