Behind the scenes of Canada’s best advertising campaigns of 2013: Budweiser Red Lights

CAMPAIGN: Budweiser Red Lights
CLIENT: LABATT BREWERIES OF CANADA
AGENCY: ANOMALY
CAMPAIGN PERIOD: FEBRUARY-MARCH 2013 
2014 CASSIES AWARD WINNER: GOLD AWARD FOR EVENTS, SEASONAL & SHORT-TERM 

THE CLIENT

When the puck drops, fans across Canada like to celebrate with beer – a time-honoured part of the country’s hockey tradition. So when a labour dispute cut three months out of the 2012/2013 professional hockey season, Budweiser found itself facing both a critical challenge and an exciting opportunity.

The challenge: how could Budweiser engage Canadians within such a significantly shortened period? The opportunity: the delayed start to the season meant Budweiser had time to create a radically different campaign – something that had never been done before. 

“A goal in hockey is the epitome of celebration and optimism – all these things that we stand for as a brand.”
Kyle Norrington
is marketing director, Labatt Breweries of Canada

“We began to hone in on how we could make hockey even better for fans when the season officially started,” recalls Kyle Norrington, marketing director, Labatt Breweries of Canada, which makes Budweiser beer. “How could we continue to elevate the game and deepen fans’ emotional connection to hockey, and to the Budweiser brand?”

The answer landed on the most fundamental moment in hockey: the goal.

“Budweiser is a passionate fan of hockey at all levels,” says Mr. Norrington. “We support the game and aim to make it more exciting and fun for Canadians – we want to bring the game to life so that more fans can enjoy it. A goal in hockey is the epitome of celebration and optimism – all these things that we stand for as a brand.”

A survey of the social media landscape found that many media outlets offer mobile applications that allow fans to get scoring updates anywhere, anytime. Budweiser needed to figure out how it could make these scoring moments more exciting and memorable for hockey fans, and how Budweiser could be part of that experience.

Budweiser didn’t need to look far beyond the closest hockey arena to find a solution. In virtually every arena across the country, a red hockey goal light buzzes and glows bright every time a player scores.

That was it – Budweiser would use red lights across the country to signal goals as they happened, making the game even more exciting for hockey fans. 

THE AGENCY

Working initially with a prototype produced in-house before partnering with Buzz Products in Australia, Anomaly created an innovative, die-cast aluminum goal light that is Wi-Fi enabled. After being paired with the Budweiser Red Lights mobile app, the Budweiser Red Light was designed to go off every single time a fan’s favourite city scores a goal in real time.

“It was a very challenging task,” says Franke Rodriguez, partner and president at Anomaly Toronto. “We couldn’t just create a commercial about a red light that goes off – we had to actually create the light. It had to be real.”

The Budweiser Red Light, available for $149 plus shipping, was launched during Super Bowl – and sold out within minutes. After the launch, the campaign was extended with print, social media and content aired weekly on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada.

To make sure people knew that the Budweiser Red Light was real and available for purchase, Anomaly created a fictional spokesperson named Ron Kovaks who talked about the functional details of the light. Anomaly also created video showing the Budweiser Red Light in different goal moments and environments. On Hockey Night in Canada, a small Budweiser Red Light glowed at the corner of the TV screen whenever scores were updated. 

“We couldn’t just create a commercial about a red light that goes off – we had to actually create the light. It had to be real.”
Franke Rodriguez
is partner and president at Anomaly Toronto

The Budweiser Red Light became inextricably linked to hockey goals. One hockey player who had scored five goals in one game apologized on camera to fans who owned the red light. They probably had to keep changing batteries to keep up with his multiple goals, the player joked.

Hockey personality Don Cherry wore a suit made from fabric imprinted with the Budweiser Red Light.

Most importantly, fans were engaged, says Mr. Rodriguez. The brand achieved close to
60 per cent ad awareness, and unique visitors to budweiser.ca soared from an average of just over 13,000 a month to about 451,000. On Facebook, the brand’s fan base increased by close to 15 per cent.

“For every Budweiser campaign we identify a set of key performance indicators, and we saw improvements in all those measures,” says Mr. Rodriguez. 

THE COLLABORATIVE RESULT 

  Fans will never have to miss a goal again, thanks to the Budweiser Red Light – a hockey goal light that, through an app, syncs with actual hockey games across the country. Whenever “he shoots, he scores,” the light turns on and sounds its horn. 

Fans will never have to miss a goal again, thanks to the Budweiser Red Light – a hockey goal light that, through an app, syncs with actual hockey games across the country. Whenever “he shoots, he scores,” the light turns on and sounds its horn. 

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