New Molson ads celebrate Canadian fans' complicated relationship with hockey

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To celebrate the NHL’s return, two Molson brands are kicking off new campaigns across Canada that aim to spotlight the unique bond Canadians have with hockey.

With a pair of TV spots that debuted last week when the first puck dropped between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens, Molson Canadian acknowledged how hockey pushes and pulls fans.

“It’s complicated to be a hockey fan in Canada,” says Katie Rankin, senior marketing manager for Molson products. “Not every province has a home team. Maybe you’re a Leafs fan who married into a Canadiens family. What’s not complicated is the best way to support Canada’s game is to drink Canada’s beer.”

The brand is also on a mission to make hockey more inclusive, especially to new Canadians who may be just getting acquainted with their new country’s favorite sport. The “It’s Complicated” TV spots scratch the surface, explaining the relationship Canadians have with the sport in an approachable and lighthearted way, Rankin says.

Molson Export is getting in on the act, too. Export, which was named the official beer of the Canadiens last month, released an ad airing in Quebec that hits a nostalgic note while celebrating the province’s unique hockey culture.

The ad, “Here’s to the Real Ones,” puts hockey-themed lyrics to music from memorable Export ads of the 1970s and ‘80s and shows buoyant Canadiens fans celebrating the team.

“Export is the official beer of the Habs, and for us it is important to acknowledge that they are not hockey fans in Quebec – they are Habs fans,” Rankin says.

The ad further links Export to the Canadiens organization. It was the official beer of the team from 1957 to 2015, and the spots follow up on the campaign promoting its return as the team’s official beer showcasing memorable moments where the Export logo is visible, such as the team’s celebration after winning the Stanley Cup in 1993.

The trio of spots are Molson’s first hockey-themed ads since 2018 and come amid an unusual year for the NHL’s seven Canadian teams. Due to a temporary realignment because of the coronavirus pandemic, they’ll participate in the same division – aptly named the North Division – this season for the first time ever.

The league’s January start followed a three-month period when fans could only dream of hockey. When the puck finally dropped last week, fans in Canada broke TV viewership records, according to data from Rogers Sportsnet in Canada .

“For us, the return of the game has never been more relevant. Canadians have been missing what we consider our national sport,” Rankin says. “Hockey brings people together, and it’s important for Molson to be a part of that.”

Molson Canadian has a full slate of promotions planned for the shortened NHL season. The beer brand, which is the official beer of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Edmonton Oilers and Ottawa Senators, as well as the NHL’s official beer, plans to re-establish itself as hockey’s beer by celebrating the sport’s fans.

“We are all in on hockey this year, and at the end of the season we don’t want there to be any doubt in anyone’s mind that Molson is the beer of hockey for fans from coast to coast,” Rankin says.