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New direction for the Montreal Canadiens fan base

by Safia Ahmad October 28, 2014
New direction for the Montreal Canadiens fan base

Club 1909 is a campaign that aims to promote the Habs organization as a global entity

Comedic actor and local star Jay Baruchel is all over the place these days, particularly in situations that would normally warrant him a restraining order. Whether he’s staring at a fast-asleep Carey Price, or hiding in Max Pacioretty’s duffle bag, this behavior seems a little strange…but it is all part of the Montreal Canadiens’ re-branding campaign, Club 1909.
Officially launched on Oct.15, the promotion is a rewards program that fans can sign up for. It is the first attempt at creating an identity that extends far beyond the borders of Quebec, reaching out to Habs fans all over the world. The campaign is promoted through an online program which fans can join for free or, for those who wish to earn more benefits, can pay $29.99 for a premium membership.
Fans can earn points for virtually anything. Whether it’s by simply watching a game on television, or following the team on various social media outlets, an accumulation of points can give fans rewards that are not usually sold to the public. Rewards include game-used pucks, jerseys and even the chance to watch a game from the Owner’s Suite.
For an organization with such rich tradition and history, owner Geoff Molson is not afraid of breaking boundaries and pushing the organization into unchartered territories. Molson hired creative director Justin Kingsley, a Concordia journalism graduate from 1996, to promote the campaign’s main goal: including fans from all over the world, by creating a united, interconnected community that identifies with the Montreal Canadiens.
Kingsley has worked as an advertising executive for Montreal UFC icon George St-Pierre, Adidas and the Olympics.
“We realized if Man U could do it, why couldn’t the Montreal Canadiens?” said Kingsley, in a recent interview with the Montreal Gazette. “We are hockey’s team so we’re going for it.”
The Montreal Canadiens are attempting to become the first hockey team to reach worldwide recognition, similar to that of famous soccer club Manchester United. However, this ambitious initiative poses some concern. Hockey is a sport that is mainly played in North America and Europe, whereas soccer is a relatively inexpensive sport that is played all over the world.
Will the nature of the sport pose any difficulty for its establishment in different markets? Concordia marketing Professor Bryan Barbieri doesn’t think so.
“It is not only soccer clubs that have built strong global brands,” said Barbieri. “The New York Yankees and the Dallas Cowboys also are successful in that regard. Each is an iconic brand in its own sport and each is now ranked in the top five of the world’s Most Valuable Brands … by Forbes magazine. Football, like hockey, is an expensive sport to play … so that particular barrier is not insurmountable.”
Moreover, it is important to note that hockey has grown in popularity in markets that, over a decade ago, wouldn’t have invested in hockey. Concordia alumnus and senior manager of Customs Logistic at Avon Canada Stan Czebruk points out that the game is stronger than ever, from a business standpoint.
“The fact that hockey is not played around the world will change. There are some leagues developing in Australia and South Africa. Just as soccer has gained recognition here in North America, hockey will grow more on a global scale,” said Czerbruk.

Thus, it seems like the Montreal Canadiens have the perfect recipe for success in international waters: a winning legacy and strategic marketing techniques, such as social media to engage fans worldwide.
“There is a particularly strong emotional dimension to a sports fan … There is no better way to tap into the emotions of millions of fans as individuals than via social media,” said Barbieri.
Uniting fans across seas through social media will bring the club to a level that will set them apart from their NHL rivals, and closer to the likes of teams like the Dallas Cowboys, New York Yankees, and Manchester United. With a glorious past and a promising future, Habs fans all over the world will now be able to live all the highs and lows with their beloved team.

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