Breweries and car dealerships are just some of the companies that have used hockey in effective and creative commercials. But for every stylish web video or charming ad campaign, there are countless hockey-related commercials that fail to engage. Chalk it up to a lack of creativity.
You’re more likely to find agencies reheating the tired motifs of past ads—menacing foreign players, toothless goons being intimidating and hockey’s entrenched position in the Canadian psyche—than agencies reimagining those themes.
Still, some innovative ad campaigns have explored well-worn subject matter to great effect. Molson-Coors Canada, a brewery that sells patriotism with its most popular beverage, Molson Canadian, has avoided clichéd territory with humour—at once acknowledging stereotypes and having fun with them. But even if an ad campaign is sufficiently creative, athletes can ruin a commercial with bad acting. Nike found a simple solution to this problem: limit athletes to non-speaking roles or don’t cast them.
Regardless, many ad agencies, which have no doubt seen how to avoid commercial failure, continue to churn out the same uninspired ideas in hockey ads. Maybe it’s easier to shoot a safe campaign. Maybe audiences respond to hockey’s best-known stereotypes. Whatever the case, here are the worst hockey-related commercials.
National Hockey League commercials. The NHL has a storied tradition of creepy advertising. Sidney Crosby has appeared in a shower and the Sedin twins have appeared as dancing call girls. But nothing beats Adam Oates, featured in the league’s “coolest game on earth” campaign, as a semi-comatose pick-up artist.
Grecian Formula with Maurice Richard. “Hey, Richard—two minutes for lookin’ so good.”
CCM U+ Crazy Light with Alexander Ovechkin. Why is Ovechkin’s head in a kid’s locker? Why is it severed? Why is the kid not mortified? Why did Cramer-Krasselt, the agency responsible for this commercial, think a nonsensical ad was the best use of one of the NHL’s most potent offensive players?
Don Cherry for Quiznos. Don Cherry will flog anything: insulation, mortgage companies, tires and gambling services, to name a few. And the commercials are just as bad as his suits. Cherry’s dog is uncontrollable in a promotional spot for the Hamilton SPCA, though his advertisement low is with Quiznos. Cherry has made a career out of off-colour remarks, so it’s unsurprising when he says to sportscaster Jody Vance that “women don’t know sports.” In the end, Grapes gets his comeuppance, but the situation is so contrived, and starts from such a misogynistic place, that it’s difficult to understand why Cherry would let himself be typecast to this extent.
Wayne Gretzky commercials. Speaking of advertising anything, you can’t forget Wayne Gretzky, hockey’s most predominant pitchman over the last three decades. His acting chops have improved, but back in the ’80s, he was, well—just watch the video.
TekSavvy commercials with Georges Laraque. It’s obvious why companies would choose Gretzky to endorse their products, even if his on-screen charisma is lacking. He’s arguably the greatest hockey player ever, and simply stamping his face next to a product increases brand recognition. It’s not obvious why any company would choose Georges Laraque, a retired enforcer with middling fan support, to endorse anything.