Friday, November 2, 2012

Lockout Negotiating brought to you by Bud Light

A while back, from 1999-2000 Bud Light ran some very clever hockey ads.  The premise of these TV spots started as clever little commercials, simple 30 second TV spots featuring little bubble hockey players that come to life trapped in their little bubble world.  I loved these commercials because it felt like people who grew up playing hockey were in charge of these commercials, as evident in one of my favorites called, "Old Timer."  ...Punk.

The commercials were popular because they were on ESPN and ESPN 2 which means lots of people saw them.  Hockey was first portrayed a simple fun game - like these TV spots were.  Eventually, as the popularity of these commericals grew, these clever little guys got their own league, the BBHL - the Bubble Boy Hockey League.  Like any modern league, it had a commissioner - Wayne Gretzky - and the players had representation - Phil Esposito.  Budweiser dragged these commercials out, determined to ruin them like Bud Bowl.  The last two or three of these commercials weren't nearly as fun as the original 5 or 6 and people lost interest in the commercials.

These last 3 or 4 Bubble Boy commercials that lost people interests were about - you guessed it - labor negotiations.  The first five of six of these commercials are all over youtube and are funny and clever.  The last 3 or 4, featuring Gretzky and Espo negotiating about salaries and revenue seems to kill the momentum and popularity the first commericals had.  See where I'm going with this?

I only found one of the final TV Spots featuring the labor negotiations - the commerical below introduces the negotiations.  In this commercials it seems to the outside observer that the player rep is driving a hard bargain.  But really, if you're on the inside, there is little seriousness between the two parties in hashing out a lasting deal.

I wish I could find the last few commercials in the series.  One shows Esposito reading off a list of demands to Gretzky as commissioner. Demands that start with the request for a large bonus to the players ultimately settling for a free turkey on Thanksgiving.  In that commercial, it's evident that commissioner doesn't seriously consider any of the players proposals.  And in the last of the series, Gretzky and Esposito are on the golf course laughing about the state of the league while the fans and players think the two sides are hard at work in a heated session negotiating in best efforts and good faith.  Pretty much where things are with the NHL today.  There's dual duality in this post - one, Budweiser took what was a clever marketing campaign and killed it by trying to make it something bigger and two, the consumers lost interest because the commericals were no longer about cute guys with funny accents playing hockey, it was about labor negotiations.  The marketing campaign that came after the 'Bubble Boys' was the hockey cliche-in-a-can "Hockey Falls" series featuring mullets, slut moms (listen to the game broadcast in the background #CBJ fans), and mouth-breathers.

It's funny how silly beer commercials from a decade ago have some significance and relevance today.  I really wish I could find those last two commericals on the internets.  One free beer to anyone who can find those last two commmercials and send me the link.

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