Budweiser lights up the hockey world

A giant Goal Light is the latest bold execution the brand will launch during the Super Bowl.

Sports fans may be more focused on football this weekend, but Budweiser is using the opportunity to debut its latest effort to win the hearts of hockey fans.

The original Budweiser Red Light, a Wi-Fi-enabled goal light that’s activated when someone’s favourite team scores a goal, was released in 2013 (and is still available for purchase online). To take the concept even further this year, Budweiser constructed a 20-foot-tall version of the light, build to withstand temperatures of -40 degrees and winds up to 1,230 miles per hour. In September, it will be placed at the North Pole, in time for the World Cup of Hockey, where Canada will defend its gold win at the last tournament in 2004.

“We think it’s an interesting idea for the brand to empower Canadian fans to, literally and figuratively, light up the world when Canada scores by being on top of the world,” says Andrew Oosterhuis, director of marketing for Budweiser, Kokanee and value brands at Labatt Breweries of Canada. “Over 60,000 [of the original] Red Lights will go off as well, so it’s creating a network of support among all hockey fans in Canada.”

A 60-second TV spot showing the transportation of the light across a snowy landscape will debut during Hockey Night in Canada this Saturday (the first time a 60-second ad will have aired during Coach’s Corner), with a 30-second version debuting the following night during CTV’s broadcast of the Super Bowl.

Anomaly Toronto led the campaign, with UM on media buy, Veritas Communications on PR and Hunter Straker on trade marketing.

Budweiser Canada has used the Super Bowl to launch hockey-focused campaigns in the past, such as the original Red Light campaign, the “Flash Fans” spot in 2012 or the flying “Red Zeppelin” version of the goal light in 2014. Oosterhuis says that while Canadians might be football-focused during the Super Bowl, the company has seen great success when it comes to using the game, and its audience, as a platform to launch “big, bold new ideas.”

The launch spot is the first phase of the campaign, focused on building awareness and excitement for the light, with the second phase attempting to show Canadians that the light is “real” and not just something hundreds of miles away that they see on a screen. Prior to reaching its final destination, the light will tour hockey-centric events across Canada, beginning at the World Pond Hockey Championships in Plaster Rock, NB on Feb. 25. Along the tour, fans in attendance will be able to etch their name into the light, taking a part of them with it to the North Pole. Mosaic is leading the execution on the tour.

“We also have a new execution planned for mid-March, and part of it is to continue the story as we build to the fall, but it will also be an execution that shows the Red Light is real and is on a journey, which is what will make it real and meaningful for Canadians,” Oosterhuis says, though he remains mum on the details for now.

The giant Goal Light was the latest thing to come out of Budweiser’s “Goal Lab,” where consumer-submitted ideas for new ways to celebrate goals are prototyped and voted on by the public. In a highly competitive hockey space where some of Budweiser’s biggest competitors are also using large-scale gestures to win over fans, Oosterhuis says the brand’s strategy for competing has been all about “owning” the celebrations around goals.

“The goal is the most exciting moment in hockey,” he says. “The platform was to enhance the celebration around scoring a goal, and I think being very singular in our focus when it comes to hockey helps differentiate us.”

Though independent of the Goal Lab and the Light campaign, this past weekend, Budweiser Canada hosted a hack-a-thon for young Canadians to come up with other innovations, this time around ways to prevent drunk driving and to empower designated drivers. That was a way to extend the message of another Budweiser Super Bowl spot, featuring Helen Mirren viciously insulting drunk drivers, which will air in both the U.S. and Canadian Super Bowl broadcasts.