Campaign of the Week

10 August 2021

Coors courts hockey fans by brewing beer with Stanley Cup ice 

Beer brand uses ice from ice hockey final to create limited-edition brew for fans

Last month, the Tampa Bay Lightning ice hockey team won the Stanley Cup, a trophy awarded each year to the National Hockey League (NHL) playoff champion in the US.

League sponsor Coors Light marked the occasion by releasing a limited-edition beer made with ice scraped from the rink on which the final was played.

Called Champions Ice, the beer was brewed and then blended with the ice, which was ‘purified using reverse osmosis membrane ultra-filtration technology,’ according to the brand.

The beer went on tap the following week at participating bars, and locals could check for availability via a dedicated website. Coors Light also launched a limited supply of 32-ounce collectible growlers (a half gallon container of beer) for retail.

Champions Ice was created by DDB Chicago. The campaign follows the Stanley Cup Batch, brewed by Molson Canadian Brews (Coors Light’s Canadian brewer). The limited-edition beer gets its name from being passed through the bowl of the Stanley Cup before being packaged.

Contagious Insight 

Distinctive assets / First, the sponsorship of an ice hockey league is a nod to Coors Light’s ‘cold’ marketing strategy (relaunched in 2018), which has also included a cold-activated can (the mountain turns blue when the beer is ‘as cold as the Rocky mountains’) and a campaign called Made to Chill aimed at 21- to 34-year-old drinkers. A cold beer might not sound like a unique idea, but through numerous campaigns, sponsorships and PR stunts, Coors has successfully made coldness, the ultimate refreshment, a distinctive asset.

How to level up sponsorship / As an official sponsor of the NHL, this somewhat gimmicky product release is a great way for Coors Light to amp up its support of the game and the fans. Similar to Ajax rewarding loyal season ticket holders for their support by melting down their Eredivisie trophy into 42,000 silver star mementoes, the Champions Ice brew rewards ice hockey fans with a literal slice of the action. The idea that fans can drink the ice where their team poured blood, sweat and tears into winning the playoff is hugely symbolic (the ice was purified from any bodily fluids after all) and creates an emotional tie to this otherwise gimmicky one-off beer. 

Milk an occasion / The novelty of the Champions Ice brew (and its name) chimed with the sense of celebration and ceremony of winning the Stanley Cup, integrating Coors Light into the post-match celebrations.

In 2017 Indian motorcycle company Bajaj built motorbikes using metal from an historic aircraft carrier. Launched on Republic Day, the idea leveraged consumers’ patriotism and the prestige of a famous warship to add intangible value to the product and resulted in the brand’s most successful launch. Similarly, in his book Alchemy, Rory Sutherland recalls a test for aspiring copywriters at ad agency, J. Walter Thompson: ‘One of the questions was simple: “Here are two identical 25-cent coins. Sell me the one on the right.” One successful candidate understood the idea of alchemy. “I'll take the right-hand coin and dip it in Marilyn Monroe's bag. Then I'll sell you a genuine 25-cent coin as owned by Marilyn Monroe.”’ By ‘dipping’ its brand into the NHL playoff final, Coors Light’s Champions Ice takes on some second-hand prestige and becomes that bit more desirable to the fans.

It’s worth mentioning that this idea isn’t original, however. At the beginning of the year Swiss brewery Brauerei Schützengarten partnered with Wunderman Thompson Switzerland, Zürich, to produce a beer from the real playing field ice of the SC Rapperswil-Jona Lakers (an ice hockey club from Rapperswil, Switzerland). Since then, the agency has challenged Coors Light to a taste-off, saying: ‘The action will be conducted by a beer tasting specialist and streamed live so that the best beer from a hockey field wins. Because enjoyment trumps speed.’

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