Budweiser Red Lights

Events, Seasonal and Short-Term (GOLD)

Client Credits: Labatt Breweries of Canada
Jorn Socquet, VP, Marketing
Kyle Norrington, Marketing Director
JR Edwards, Senior Marketing Manager
Alexis Smith, Assistant Brand Manager
Briar Wells, Manager, Corporate Affairs

Agency Credits: Anomaly
Mike Byrne, Chief Creative Officer
Pete Breton, Dave Douglass, Executive Creative Directors
Mike Warzin, Creative
Taylor Twist, Creative
Dave Douglass, Art Director
Ron MacDonald, Copywriter
Jen Mete, Senior Integrated Producer
Sharon Langlotz & Leanne McLellan, Agency Producers
Brent Rivard, Executive Business Director
Dion Aralihalli, Account Director
Keltie White, Account Supervisor
Allison Cornford, Account Executive
Vanessa Cote, Account Coordinator
Nikki Milligan, Packaging & Design
Jonathan Armstrong, Digital Design
Omar Morson & Marie Rupolo, Graphic Design
Supplier: Product Development & Manufacturing: Buzz Products
Supplier: Digital Production: Ransom Profit
Supplier: Production Houses: OPC FamilyStyle/Biscuit Filmworks, Asymetric
Supplier: Directors: Andreas Nilsson, Finn O’Hara
Supplier: Production House Producers: Donovan Boden, Harland Weiss, Dennis Beier
Supplier: Cinematographers: Peter Deming, Mark Peachey
Supplier: Offline Editorial: Spot Welders, School Editing, Rooster
Supplier: Post Production Producers: Patrick McElroy, Sarah Brooks, Melissa Kahn
Supplier: Editors: Robert Duffy, Patrick Murphree, Aaron Dark, Christina Humphries
Supplier: Conform & Telecine: Shipping + Handling, CO 3, Alter Ego
Supplier: Online Special Effects: Fort York
Supplier: Audio Mix & Sound Design: Lime Studios, Sonic Kore, Kim Christensen, Noise Digital
Supplier: Music, Sound & VO: Silent Joe, GGRP
Supplier: PR Company: Veritas: James Lamont, Melissa Retty, Amanda Gun-Munro


Business Results Period (Consecutive Months):February 2013 - March 2013
Start of Advertising/Communication Effort: February 2013
Base Period as a Benchmark: Calendar 2012

a) Overall Assessment

“We know that hockey is where we live, where we can best meet and overcome pain and wrong and death. Life is just a place where we spend time between games.” —Fred "The Fog" Shero

Hockey is in the hearts of all Canadians and is also critical to winning in the very competitive beer category.    

In 2011, the NHL announced it had entered into a sponsorship agreement with Molson and would not be renewing its contract with Budweiser. As hockey represents the biggest volume-driving occasion, this was a potentially massive setback for Budweiser. This pressure was compounded as Canadians were left with a major void in their lives when the 2012/2013 hockey season did not start on schedule due to a labour dispute between the National Hockey League (NHL) and the National Hockey League Players Association (NHLPA).

A 3-month hockey hiatus combined with Molson’s partnership with the NHL left Budweiser with one of the biggest challenges to date when the season did officially start in January.

Faced with this challenge, we saw the delayed start to the season as our opportunity to do something never been done before. We asked ourselves, what could we do to make the game even better for fans when the season officially started? The answer was the Budweiser Red Light, a powerful and singular symbol of the best moments in hockey: the goals. 

Our objective was clear: this new initiative needed to elevate game time by deepening fans’ emotional connection to hockey and Budweiser through the iconic red light that goes off in arenas across Canada when goals are scored. By doing so we would carve a unique space for ourselves in the category and demonstrate just how big of a fan we are. 

b) Resulting Business Objectives

The ultimate goal continued to focus on increasing brand preference and consumption through association with hockey. That being said, we needed to move beyond solely creating regional connections through our local team sponsorships (Vancouver Canucks, Winnipeg Jets and Calgary Flames) and focus on elevating game time across the nation, all season long, in a way that created a lasting legacy.

Our campaign commenced in February and because plans were already in place for a promotional program for the hockey playoffs between April and June, it was critical we hit our objectives for the first quarter of 2013 after the slow start from the hockey lockout.

Core business objectives:

  1. Drive brand preference (Top 3 preference) with 19 to 34 year old men in Q1 2013.
  2. Increase weekly consumption from February to March 2013.

Core communication objectives:

  1. Generate 21.5 million earned impressions nationwide.
  2. Increase ad awareness vs. last year’s hockey campaign. 

c) Annual Media Budget

d) Geographic Area
Canada (National)

a) Analysis and Insight

"A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be" - Wayne Gretzky 

Molson, one of Budweiser’s major competitors, was very much present in hockey nationwide due to its strong connection to Canadian heritage and its new NHL sponsorship. As such, Budweiser had a major challenge to break through and drive relevancy with Canadian hockey fans on a national level. 

While we didn’t have the NHL sponsorship, we recognized that for Canadians the culture of hockey is far more important than the business of hockey. Our strategy of elevating game time for everyday hockey fans was the right approach to winning in the hockey space. We would continue to ask ourselves, as hockey’s biggest fans, what would we do with Budweiser’s resources to make the best game in the world even better for fans? Two major “aha!” moments helped us answer this question and take our current strategy to new heights by identifying an ownable platform built around goals that could live on long term:

1) Traditional sponsorships can be important, but access to logos and sponsorship language doesn’t truly capture Canadians’ love for the game. It’s the sense of community, anticipation and excitement of what the game brings that win over hockey fans across the country. This was very much in line with the values of Budweiser as anticipation, celebration and camaraderie are at the core of its values.  We recognized that the most exciting moment in hockey is the goal. If executed correctly we could associate ourselves with the greatest moment in the game, when fans’ emotions are at their peak. Over time, Budweiser could be part of Canadians’ greatest hockey memories at home.

2) After identifying our aspirations to be associated with goals, we recognized that while traditional sponsorships have access to logos and imagery, they didn’t always have ownership of an in-game moment like scoring. Taking a look at the developing mobile and social media landscape, we realized that many media outlets had applications you could download to your phone to receive scoring updates. The challenge was to connect our brand to an in-game moment, and to the growing connectivity available to update people in real time on the status of their favourite team. This was an enormous discovery as it meant we had the ability to be connected to goals.

With these insights in mind, we again asked ourselves what could we do to make the best moment in hockey even better? The answer was bringing fans closer to the goal-scoring moment with the Budweiser Red Light, a game-synched goal light that goes off every time their favourite city scores. We essentially brought the arena experience and the epicentre of goal celebrations into Canadian homes.

b) Communication Strategy

Hockey captures the essence of Canadian experience in the New World. In a land so inescapably and inhospitably cold, hockey is the chance of life, and an affirmation that despite the deathly chill of winter we are alive.”  - Stephen Leacock

Budweiser is about celebration and anticipating great times. With that in mind, we wanted to create something tangible for our core target: hockey-loving males aged 19 to 34. But it also needed to be meaningful for all fans, not just the fortunate few who got a seat in the arena. Millions of fans gather with friends at their favorite bars and at house parties to watch the game. These fans deserved to have their game amplified and their celebration taken to a whole new level. 

To create ongoing relevancy for Canadian fans, we had to create a new experience.

There is no other sport in the world that has a single recognizable symbol and sound that goes off when scoring occurs. Over the years, the red goal light in hockey had become not just a trigger, but also a beacon of great times and great memories. This was our big opportunity. To identify the best way to bring it to life and stay on the strategy of elevating game time, we couldn’t just simply associate ourselves with goals: we had to find a way to make goals even better. We decided to bring goals closer to the fans and elevate the experience whenever they were scored.

Leveraging a technology that’s never been used in a consumer product, Budweiser created a physical, game-synched hockey goal light that goes off every time a fan’s favourite city scores.

Strategically, it made perfect sense: Budweiser is celebration and optimism in a bottle; similarly, the goal light in hockey is celebration and optimism in a flash, a powerful symbol of elation underlying Canada’s national pastime. It also represents teamwork and camaraderie – shared values of Budweiser.  

Using a WIFI connection and the Budweiser Red Lights App, fans select their city (or cities) and follow the simple instructions to connect their physical red light to their favourite city. Fans will never miss a goal again and can rest assured they'll know when their city has scored: the Budweiser Red Light flashes and a horn sounds. There’s also a “five minutes to game time” warning message.

The light is made from aluminum and plastic, featuring an authentic goal light look and feel. Each light is available for $149 plus shipping – less than the cost of manufacturing.

This unique approach created an action and experience for the consumer vs. simply talking at them. An idea this big needed to be announced on the biggest stage – the Super Bowl – and after the success of Budweiser’s “Flash Fans” campaign, a flash mob style commercial where unsuspecting recreational hockey players got to experience what it was like to be a professional, expectations to deliver something big ran high. As such, it was a natural extension to launch the integrated Budweiser Red Light campaign during the Super Bowl. After launch, we extended the campaign with print, social media and content that aired weekly on CBC’s Hockey Night In Canada.

a) Media Used

  • 60-second TV on Super Bowl + 30-second cut down for media buy
  • Red Light media integration on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada
  • Video content found digitally through pre-roll, YouTube and bonus media available on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada
  • National media relations and a five market media tour to support the launch of the Budweiser Red Light
  • Influencer seeding of the Budweiser Red Light
  • Budweiser.ca e-commerce site to purchase the Red Light or to learn more about the light

b) Creative Discussion

Given the uniqueness of the idea we chose to take a two-tiered approach on how the creative would come to life. First, the idea was so unique that we needed to ensure people knew the Budweiser Red Light was actually real and not just a prop in a commercial. The second part of our approach was ensuring we brought to life the emotional power of the Budweiser Red Light. If goals represented the best moment in hockey we needed to ensure we brought the same emotional power of our idea to life.

To help ensure people knew the light was real we created a fictional spokesperson, Ron Kovacs, a goal enthusiast who could speak to the functional details of the light in our creative and press tours.

The second part of our approach was delivering the emotional connection the Budweiser Red Light was bringing to Canadians across the country through heartwarming pieces of content capturing how the light was elevating the hockey watching experience for Canadians throughout the nation. 

c) Media Discussion

The Budweiser Red Light turned product into media.  By creating a tangible experience that celebrates the most passionate moment of the game for fans, Budweiser created a relevant and meaningful connection to their target. The idea transcended a traditional campaign and used innovative story telling across multiple channels. 

15 second teasers (see attached)

In the week leading up to the Super Bowl launch, three fifteen-second teasers were released, hinting that “hockey will never be the same on February 3” (the Super Bowl). We felt the teasers were an important part of the story telling in building anticipation for the announcement and it was a technique that we knew worked from past experiences such as our 2012 “Flash Fans” campaign. The teasers were disseminated on pre-roll, on Budweiser’s Facebook page and as media inventory available on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada broadcast.

60 Second TV Launch on Super Bowl (see attached)

During the Super Bowl our idea for the Budweiser Red Light was officially launched. Given the scale of the idea and the stage it was on, we chose to use a 60-second spot to allow for enough time to deliver proper story telling and maximize the emotional impact.

Hockey Night in Canada media integration (see attached)

The media integration on Hockey Night in Canada was a critical part of our plan as it didn’t just represent a high number of viewers, it was also part of Canadian culture and hockey tradition. Generations of hockey fans recall making Saturday night and Hockey Night in Canada part of their weekly ritual. It’s where Canadians watched and most remembered goals being scored, since virtually all Canadian teams are scheduled to play every Saturday. As part of the integration we also wanted to ensure when goals were scored the Budweiser Red Light came to mind. Any time a score update was made during the broadcast a little illuminated red light would appear on screen with the Budweiser logo. It was a perfect way to reinforce our innovation when it mattered most on the broadcast.

Video content (see attached)

On a weekly basis, new video content was introduced to showcase the Budweiser Red Light in new environments. Some would explain the functional attributes of the light, while others would lean into the emotional benefit of the light. The content would appear through a pre-roll media buy, the Budweiser Facebook page and media inventory available through the CBC Hockey Night in Canada integration.

Budweiser.ca (see attached)

When our anthemic spot launched on the Super Bowl, our redesigned website did as well. It was a site dedicated to learning about the Budweiser Red Light, finding new video content, capturing social commentary and was also a fully function e-commerce site where hockey fans could purchase the light.


Teaser videos of the spot were leaked in advance of Super Bowl Sunday to key media, with two key media exclusives landing prior to the Super Bowl, including the front page of the Toronto Star Sports section. Momentum continued with a cross-country media tour in each of Canada’s seven hockey cities, product seeding to key sports and lifestyle influencers, and ongoing integration into Budweiser’s Hockey Night in Canada partnership. Coverage was generated in all major Canadian sports and news outlets.

The Budweiser Red Light

While the light itself elevated the greatest moment in hockey it also served as a fixed media placement in the homes of thousands of Canadians when and where it mattered most.  Living rooms, man caves and bedrooms all had a Budweiser Red Light with a Budweiser logo and a five-minute reminder before game time to “grab some Buds.” This was a space no other competitor could penetrate and one that delivers thousands of incremental impressions with or without the game on. We were essentially branded parts of households across the nation.

a) Sales/Share Results

“You miss 100% of the shots you never take.” - Wayne Gretzky

One could say it was a leap of courage to take a chance on creating a completely new product outside of the category but it was a chance we were willing to take because we knew as hockey fans it was something we all loved. While we knew we had a big idea, we never anticipated the impact achieved. The first release of Budweiser Red Lights sold out within hours of the launch during Super Bowl. A second wave was later released, selling out in three weeks.  

Business objectives:

  1. OBJECTIVE – Drive brand preference (Top 3 preference) with 19 to 34 year old men in Q1 2013.
    ACHIEVED – Increased top 3 preference 21% in February/March vs. previous year (record quarter). Source: IPSOS Brand Performance Tracking. For the first time in history Budweiser became the favourite brand of young adults in Canada.
  2. OBJECTIVE – Increase weekly consumption from February to March.
    ACHIEVED – Increased weekly consumption by 17% in February/March vs. previous year (record quarter). Source: IPSOS Brand Performance Tracking.

Communication objectives:

  1. OBJECTIVE – Generate 21.5MM earned media impressions nationwide ACHIEVED – Achieved 50MM+ impressions (Canada’s population is 34MM). Source: IPSOS Brand Performance Tracking.
  2. OBJECTIVE Increase ad awareness vs. last year’s hockey campaign 
    ACHIEVED – Achieved 57% ad awareness (record high). Source: IPSOS Brand Performance Tracking. 

Also, average monthly unique visitors to Budweiser.ca increased from 13.2K to 451K. Budweiser’s Facebook fan base increased by 14.8K and engagement by 373% in February/March.

b) Consumption/ Usage Results

c) Other Pertinent Results

d) Return on Investment

a) General Discussion

While in the beer category there are variables such as regional pricing that can affect sales results, we are confident in saying that there was a strong relationship between activity and results.

Budweiser experienced a record quarter in brand consideration and weekly consumption when there was no other major marketing activity beyond the Budweiser Red Light occurring. The program received more than 50 million earned media impressions telling the Budweiser Red Light story across Canada and beyond.

The light garnered praise from former Apple Chief Evangelist Officer Guy Kawasaki, who described it as “the best marketing idea ever.” Media were eager to pick up the story. The Toronto Star featured the light on the front page of the sports section.  Wired magazine and Contagious also praised the idea.

The story also created such inspiration throughout Canada that one college student triggered a North American groundswell of support when he started a petition for the CN Tower in Toronto to light up every time Toronto scored in the playoffs. He claimed the inspiration for the idea came from the Budweiser Red Light. Likewise, an iconic skyscraper in Pittsburgh was also lit up red every time their city scored during the playoffs.

Greater than any one business objective is seeing the inspiration others have had as a result of the Budweiser Red Light. This case is an example of a brand truly behaving like a fan vs. just talking to one. Budweiser is committed to bringing fans closer to the game one goal at a time.

b) Excluding Other Factors
Spending Levels:

Spending was consistent with past hockey programs.


There were no pricing initiatives during the program.

Distribution Changes:

There were no other distribution changes for Budweiser. 

Unusual Promotional Activity:

There were no other major marketing activities while the Red Light program was in market.

Other Potential Causes:

There were no other major marketing activities while the Red Light program was in market.