Kraft must go on while Hockeyville on hiatus

November 20, 2012  |  Chris Powell  |  Comments

Finding new ways to get the brand in local arenas through volunteer appreciation

There’ll be no joy in Hockeyville this year.

Kraft Canada announced Tuesday that it is suspending its popular “Kraft Hockeyville” program until 2014 as a result of the ongoing NHL lockout. The company also announced the creation of a new grassroots program honouring hockey volunteers called “Kraft Hockey Goes On.”

Hockeyville has become one of Kraft’s leading consumer engagement programs since its 2006 inception, and has been credited with producing a 4% to 6% sales lift for Kraft products during its January to March run.

The program won a Gemini award for best cross-platform project, non-fiction, in 2010, while research conducted by Kraft this year found that the program generated 39% aided recall among Canadians.

The program has helped create double-digit increases against statements like “Kraft supports my community” and “Kraft shares the same values as me” in consumer surveys, said Jack Hewitt, vice-president of marketing insights and services for Kraft in Toronto.

Hewitt said the company had set an internal deadline of Nov. 15 deadline for a resolution to the lockout – now well into its third month – and a 2013 iteration of Kraft Hockeyville.

Also contributing to the decision were ongoing enquiries about Hockeyville on Kraft’s Facebook page. “We couldn’t see ourselves inconveniencing those communities,” said Hewitt.

Hewitt said that Kraft had been working in tandem with its agency partners since July to develop a back-up plan that could be implemented if the NHL lockout dragged on. “We’re disappointed that the game is not being played right now,” said Hewitt. “We would love to have Kraft Hockeyville being executed in 2013, but from a logistics standpoint, we were up against the clock.”

Had the lockout ended, Hewitt said that Kraft would have kept “Kraft Hockey Goes On” in its ideas file for possible future use.

One of the key consumer insights behind the launch of Hockeyville in 2006 was that the local arena is the meeting point for families, with 92% of Canadians heading there for public skating, hockey, figure skating etc. “It wasn’t hard for us to keep the consumer positioning in front of us as the central idea and work on an idea to give back to the community at the grassroots level,” said Hewitt.

“When we learned there were 4 million volunteers that helped the game of hockey go on, it just seemed like a natural linkage and an extension of what we were doing with Hockeyville,” he added.

The new program will recognize hockey volunteers across the country with a $100,000 grand prize for the hockey associations producing the top five volunteers and $20,000 prizes for an additional 20 volunteers and their hockey associations. Kraft also plans to donate $100,000 to Hockey Canada to develop local learn to skate programs.

Communities will be invited to nominate local hockey volunteers at between Jan. 21 and March 8. A panel will determine the top 100 individuals that can be voted on by the public. Communities can find out how to get involved by visiting a dedicated Facebook page.

Hewitt said that Kraft is still developing a media plan for “Kraft Hockey Goes On,” but said it will target women 25-54. The program will promote a broad range of Kraft products, including Cracker Barrel, Philadelphia Cream Cheese and Tassimo as well as Mondolez Canada brands including Oreo, Chips Ahoy and Premium Plus crackers.

Chuck Thompson, head of media relations for CBC English Services, told Marketing via e-mail that no other Hockey Night in Canada marketing programs have been officially suspended as a result of the lockout.

Thompson said that the CBC’s new “HNIC: Your Pick” initiative, in which fans are invited to choose which classic games they wanted to see again, has proved a modest success for the network in the absence of its flagship program. “While the audiences have been modest, they came in right about where we expected,” said Thompson.

Thompson said the CBC began planning for the lockout during the summer. “CBC has contingency plans in place that will see us through the lockout, and like everyone else who loves the game, we hope both sides will reach an agreement soon,” he said.

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