NHL’s “Because it’s the Cup” leaves a lot to be desired

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Have you caught any of the NHL’s newest television ads of their “Because it’s the Cup” campaign? 

This year the NHL publicly stated they were targeting the casual and non-hockey fan demographic and would do so through a series of “Because it’s the Cup” ads that would appear in all forms of media. I’ve seen quite a few and to be blunt, I’m not impressed. Why is the NHL’s new campaign missing the mark?

The NHL is known for their quality advertising. Often they have created spots that aren’t just fun to watch but are quite moving. They are inspiring. They create goosebumps. As you saw in this post, the NHL has had some hugely successful campaigns that were truly works of art. Go back and watch “Cup Raise” or one of the many “History will be Made” ads and feel the emotion the ad inspires. Now watch the video above and see if it captures the same sort of feeling. It just…doesn’t. 

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Evidently, the NHL feels that the way to target the casual or non-fan is by taking a step backward. They’ve decided to run rather bland ads with a narrator that just doesn’t fit the overall feeling that is the Stanley Cup playoffs. They have tried to dumb the sport down so far as to label the two intermissions as two halftimes. By taking things so far in a different direction they have removed what actually was appealing to the non and casual fan – the magic and mystique of the sport. 

Perhaps we, as serious hockey fans (it’s safe to assume you are as you went out of your way to read this article), aren’t getting it because we aren’t the target market. Perhaps the casual and non-fan that the NHL is targeting with these spots are actually enjoying them.

With that began a brief, limited experiment. Granted, the sample size was quite tiny but I feel it accurately portrays the general consensus. It offers direct insight into what a few folks that don’t really care about hockey felt about the new series of ads. 

I showed a few non-hockey fans some of the “Because it’s the Cup” spots, including the one above. The reaction was pretty plain vanilla. They didn’t think the spots were bad or poor but they didn’t find them to be anything special. They noted the narrator’s voice didn’t pack a punch and didn’t feel like it fit within the context of the ad. They thought the ads fell into a strange gray area that isn’t quite serious and isn’t quite jovial. They are just “meh”. They are ads without any identity.

I then showed them the “Cup Raise” ad as well as a few spots from the “History will be Made” campaign. I also showed the “No Words” spot (most of these can be seen here). The reaction was quite different. Keep in mind these are NON-fans. They do not follow the sport. They couldn’t tell you anything about the standings, the best players or anything else besides some basic facts about how the sport is played.They loved these ads. They found them not only brilliant and inspiring but loved how they captured history, each in its own unique way. They were disappointed that they didn’t know the history behind the ads and felt like they were truly missing out on something special. They had goosebumps. The ads were ones they wanted to watch again – and again. 

You see NHL, you don’t need to dumb things down in order to appeal to casual or non-fans. The immensely beautiful and rich ads you have released in past years have resonated with the casual fan and the non-fan. The key to reaching the demographic that doesn’t follow your sport is to make something completely unique. Something creative. Something that leaves you silent after you view it as you take in all that you just saw. This is what you have masterfully accomplished in recent years. 

Unfortunately, the new “Because it’s the Cup” campaign doesn’t really hit these notes. It’s bland. It falls into the same category of advertising that we might see from any other company – a huge difference from the previous ads that stand in a class of their own.

The NHL has created dozens of what some might consider not only the best ads in sports but possibly the best ads in advertising the past few years all without having to say a word. The “History will be Made”, “Cup Raise” and obviously the “No Words” video didn’t have a narrator – they didn’t need one. They told their story with the images and sounds from the game set to what was the perfect selection of music. They made you stop what you were doing and pay attention, eager to take it all in just one more time. They stood on their own, powerful, making casual fans wish they were die-hard fans and making the non-fan wonder what he/she has been missing.

Simply put the new campaign doesn’t do any of this. It blends into the other commercials surrounding it. It becomes background noise to whatever it is you are doing at the time. It lacks the creativity, spirit and passion that we have come to know and love from NHL spots. 

It’s a rare and disappointing miss.

David Rogers

About David Rogers

Managing Editor of Puck Drunk Love, Frozen Notes and Awful Advertisements. Contributing Editor for Awful Announcing. Love hockey, Real Madrid and Ray Hudson - but not necessarily in that order.

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