The NHL season is still young, but the Montreal Canadiens are already running away with the lead… online.
Already the Top Sports Brand in Canada (as found in the results of an August 2014 Canada-wide survey), Les Canadiens recently launched a new online fan club, Club 1909, to encourage all of their fans, in Canada and around the world, to come together in one place to revel in their fandom and receive rewards for their purchases and engagement. It’s a fantastic idea that took 2 years of planning and building before it was launched in fall 2014. And if the team has their way, it will grow year after year, bringing in new fans with it.
Club 1909 has its own url and website, integrating social media posts from fans, the team, and players to create a hub of activity and information. The site also offers exclusive content, giving fans the “behind the curtain” look that they so often crave. It’s the extra step that other teams aren’t taking, and while it may sound trivial to some, and like a sunken cost to others, those of us who understand the importance of brand community know that the upside is certainly there.
Members of Club 1909 are able to earn points towards rewards. Points are accumulated by buying official merchandise, being active on social media sites, and even watching Canadiens games on TV (codes will be displayed on screen that can then be redeemed online) from coast to coast, and around the world. The idea of rewarding fans for their loyalty and engagement is so simple it’s almost impossible to fathom that something like this wasn’t already happening with other high profile sports organizations like the Dallas Cowboys, Toronto Maple Leafs, Manchester United, or LA Lakers.
The trade-off of merchandise discounts, special offers, exclusive content and high-end rewards like meeting the team is not too high a cost when you consider what the franchise is getting in return. More online chatter, more impressions, more engagement, it all leads to a higher profile for the team and more opportunities to create partnerships with advertisers and sponsors. It becomes the Canadiens difference maker, “Look how engaged our fans are everywhere!”
To launch Club 1909, the Canadiens have created a video campaign featuring Canadian actor and Canadiens fan, Jay Baruchel. The videos are short, funny, and include hockey players that fans are used to seeing either in full equipment on the ice, or sweating in the locker room. This glimpse at a lighter side of their favourite stars is yet another hook that the team is using to draw people into the program.
As of now there are 5 Club 1909 videos on YouTube in both English and French, and I’m sure there will be more as the season progresses and the membership of Club 1909 grows. These videos are excellent examples of the branded content movement that has become popular recently. But unlike videos like Volvo’s Jean Claude Van Damme stunt, these may actually encourage people to act.
Together, the combination of encouraged brand community engagement and excellent branded content have created an excellent new campaign that the Canadiens should be proud of and the fans should be excited about.