Habs go global with ambitious campaign (with video)

 

 
 
 
 
Justin Kingsley, the writer of the new season of 24 CH, the documentry series on the Canadiens, looks around in the newly re-designed Montreal Canadiens dressing room on Thursday October 09, 2014.
 

Justin Kingsley, the writer of the new season of 24 CH, the documentry series on the Canadiens, looks around in the newly re-designed Montreal Canadiens dressing room on Thursday October 09, 2014.

Photograph by: Pierre Obendrauf, Montreal Gazette

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Justin Kingsley uses his pass to activate the Bell Centre elevator and then turns around with the kind of giant grin you only usually see on grade-school kids playing pranks in the park.

“They gave me a pass,” he says. “I can go anywhere in the building. I can’t believe it. What a huge mistake!”

Kingsley — a self-confessed sneakers-and-T-shirt kind of guy, with prominent tattoos on his arms — gets his fair share of stares from the suits in the Canadiens’ offices high above the Bell Centre ice. Then they find out who he is and they stop staring.

Kingsley has been working as creative director of the Canadiens for over a year now and is one of the key architects of a new international branding campaign designed to position the Habs as an iconic international sports team along the lines of Manchester United. Kingsley is a former advertising executive who has helped create marketing campaigns for Adidas, the Olympics and UFC superstar Georges St-Pierre, and he co-wrote the bestseller The Way of the Fight with St-Pierre. He is also the writer of the Habs reality series 24CH.

The ambitious new campaign — called Unite the Faithful — will be unveiled by the Canadiens at a news conference on Wednesday. The cornerstone of the campaign is Club 1909, a program created to bring together Habs fans around the world. A digital membership is free while it will set you back $29.99 for a premium membership. The pricier option gets you a membership card with a piece of game-worn Canadiens jersey and the possibility to accumulate twice as many points as the non-paying members. The points go toward nabbing Habs-themed rewards.

“The goal that I set out for myself and for our team is that every single person on the face of the earth who is connected to the Internet, who wants to feel that he or she is connected to the inside of this building, we have to make that happen,” Kingsley said in an interview in the Habs’ newly renovated dressing room. “So we’re building this platform called Club 1909 — the year the team was founded — and anyone can join … there’s this machine that we call Club 1909 where you get access to all kinds of content, of privileged access that you wouldn’t normally get … giving people access (to) and ownership of the brand.”

The web page set to launch Wednesday is canadiens.com/club1909.

The campaign is being launched with a series of seven 30-second comic videos — in both official languages — starring Montreal actor and über-fan Jay Baruchel hamming it up with various players. In one, he’s in Carey Price’s house watching the star goalie sleeping at night. In another, he breaks into tough winger Brandon Prust’s house and puts pictures of himself all over. And in another, he jumps into the shower with Brendan Gallagher to help lather his back with soap.

The films were developed with New York ad agency Rooster, which specializes in viral content.

“We’re launching on (Wednesday) what is probably the biggest marketing and branding campaign in the history of the Canadiens,” said Kingsley. “We’re trying to reach out to every Habs fan there is on the face of the earth because to us, to those of us who know and love this brand, the Canadiens are a legacy team, like the Yankees, like Manchester United. Those teams have global followings. We get photos from people who go to the Great Wall of China or somewhere in Australia, uploading photos of themselves with a Habs jersey and saying ‘Go Habs Go.’ So we want to reach out to those people and connect them, to unite our faithful fans.”

When Kingsley was brought on board the Habs’ marketing team by chief operating officer Kevin Gilmore, they talked about the universal reach of Manchester United, about a team from the north of England that is so powerful a brand that there’s a specialty store in Shanghai exclusively dedicated to its merchandise.

“We realized if Man U could do it, why couldn’t the Montreal Canadiens?” said Kingsley. “We are hockey’s team so we’re going for it.”

Kingsley is working on the Canadiens’ brand almost certainly in part because he helped develop the Georges St-Pierre brand globally when he was working with the Montreal advertising agency Sid Lee. It also didn’t hurt that Kingsley was part of the Sid Lee team that created the Adidas “Take the Stage” campaign for the 2012 Olympics in London.

“I feel like I’m the left winger,” said Kingsley. “I think they needed a big left winger to come in and complement what they had here and I think so far it’s going pretty good. Luckily there are great people to receive passes from and pass the puck to, to use the hockey cliché. There are a lot of double-breasted suits (at the Canadiens’ offices) and I’m a T-shirt guy. And I’ve got a little bit of ink (tattoos). So I get a lot of double-takes, like ‘Who the hell is that guy?’ But they’re okay with it because they go ‘Oh yeah, that’s the creative guy.’ “

And the Canadiens’ bosses are okay with the tattooed creative guy, too.

“That’s part of the beauty of working with a guy like (Canadiens president) Geoff (Molson) and a guy like Kevin (Gilmore). Instead of saying this is the way we’ve always done things, their whole attitude is ‘Let’s find a better way’. It’s saying f— the status quo and let’s do things differently.’ And when you get that formula together, there’s a chance it’s going to fail, but I’d rather give it the best shot that we can than not.”

 

 
 
 
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Justin Kingsley, the writer of the new season of 24 CH, the documentry series on the Canadiens, looks around in the newly re-designed Montreal Canadiens dressing room on Thursday October 09, 2014.
 

Justin Kingsley, the writer of the new season of 24 CH, the documentry series on the Canadiens, looks around in the newly re-designed Montreal Canadiens dressing room on Thursday October 09, 2014.

Photograph by: Pierre Obendrauf, Montreal Gazette

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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