Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Clear It With Us First

Everyone knows that beer and hockey, especially in Canada, go together like shirt-and-tie. It's an unmistakable combination of being responsible while enjoying an adult beverage and focusing one's attention on a graceful, fast, and somewhat-violent game. Lots of people enjoy a brewed beverage responsibly in the confines of a sports bar, a restaurant, an arena or stadium, or their homes while watching hockey or any other sport, so it's not like this is a revelation. What makes today's article a little more interesting is that an NHL sponsor is trying to offer something to fans that actually might not be kosher with the NHL or its teams. And that, readers, is a problem if you've happened to enter the contest already.

I received an email today from a Michelle E. who was hawking a pretty impressive contest run by Budweiser. At first, it seemed unlikely that this contest would get NHL approval based on what could be won, but the email looked and read like an official contest notification, so I read through it with an open mind. I'll publish the "official" email below, but here is what Michelle E. wrote to me,
"Playoff season just got even better with Budweiser's Playoff Payoff – one of Canada’s biggest hockey pools that offers the chance to win hockey tickets for life! As Canadians hunker down to watch their favourite cities duke it out in hockey’s yearly battle royale, they’ll also have the chance to win big with Budweiser’s Playoff Payoff – featuring more than $6 million in instant win prizing from partners including Samsung, Xbox and McCain.

"Playoff Payoff is simple: in order to play, just twist off any specially-marked bottle of Budweiser – or look on coasters at participating bars and restaurants – and collect Playoff Payoff PINs that represent a city and a round in the playoffs. Fans can go online to www.KingClub.ca to enter PINs and track their Playoff Payoff pool in the hopes of winning the ultimate hockey fan’s dream, or visit www.Budweiser.ca for more details.

"Below is more information on the promotion and I’d be happy to arrange for you to speak with Ben Seaton, Marketing Manager, Budweiser Canada.

"Please let me know if you’d have any further questions or if I can provide any further information."
Seems legit, right? I mean, Budweiser has lined up instant win partners in Samsung, XBox via Microsoft, and McCain, so it looks like this contest is off and running. I hit the Budweiser website, and there is an entire website up for this contest. All good, right? Well, let's check out the press release that Michelle included on her email. It reads,
"TORONTO, April 11, 2012 /CNW/ - This season, Budweiser - the #1 selling beer in Canada - is upping the ante and giving Canadians the chance to win† the ultimate hockey fan's dream - hockey tickets for life††. Budweiser's new Playoff Payoff promotion rewards hockey fans in a big way and, with a chance to win† more than $6 million in instant win prizes, playoff season has never been more exciting. In addition to hockey tickets for life††, fans have the chance to score every time they twist open an ice cold Budweiser. There are more than $6 million in high quality, instant prizes available to be won†. This includes a suite of premium products from Samsung Canada that will help ignite and fuel Canadian passion for hockey anywhere anytime. Products from Samsung include Samsung 55" LED TVs Series 6000, Samsung 32" LCD TVs Series 4, Samsung Galaxy Tabs 10.1, Samsung Galaxy S II Phones. Additional prizes include Xbox 360 4GB Kinect Bundles with 12 month Xbox LIVE Gold Memberships and McCain Rising Crust Pizzas.

"'Budweiser is a huge supporter of hockey and we know how deep love of the game runs coast-to-coast. We're continuing to make hockey more exciting, more fun and more accessible for Canadians. And, with Playoff Payoff, we're delivering on this in a very big way - the chance to win hockey tickets for life,' said Ben Seaton, Marketing Manager, Budweiser Canada. "This season - whether their favourite city makes the playoffs or not - fans can become part of the excitement from start to finish with the simple twist of a cap.'

"Playoff Payoff PINs can be found on bottle caps in specially-marked cases of Budweiser and on coasters at participating bars and restaurants. Each PIN includes a city and playoff round. For example, VAN1 2345678912 is Vancouver, Round 1. Fans enter the pin on www.KingClub.ca, where a personalized bracket will be set up. There, the PINs become "caps" that sit on a player's bench. These caps can be dragged and dropped into a player's bracket as the playoffs unfold. Players can also trade duplicates and make trades for caps missing from their bracket. Once a player has filled in their entire bracket, they have the chance to win† hockey tickets for life††. Additionally, Budweiser will seed special Power Play PINs throughout the contest. Power Play PINs - which act similar to a wild card - can be entered into any position on a player's bracket. Fans should keep their eyes out for Power Play PINs, which will be released across several channel including Facebook, email, SMS and more.

"To register or learn more, visit www.budweiser.ca."
So all is good, right? Budweiser has the disclaimers and all the legalese clearly defined in their press release, and the contest has been endorsed by the NHL and its teams. Er, it was, wasn't it?

The Edmonton Oilers didn't seem to think so:
"You may have heard about a contest that is currently being run across Canada promoting the chance to win “hockey tickets for life” to a Canadian hockey team’s games. We want our fans to know that neither the Edmonton Oilers nor the NHL have an affiliation with that promotion, and the Edmonton Oilers can offer no assurances to our fans that the desired tickets will be available to the winner.

"The NHL does authorize a number of sweepstakes and contests, including one from its official partner Molson -- The Stanley Cup Collection -- which includes the chance to win a trip to this year’s Stanley Cup Final, as well as some other great prizing. Learn all about this exciting promotion on our partner’s Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/MolsonCanadian"
In fact, the NHL and its teams have NOT endorsed this contest as they have a standing deal with Molson Brewery. Budweiser is not an official sponsor of the National Hockey League at all, and the "Playoff Payoff" contest isn't licensed, sponsored by, or otherwise associated with the NHL or its teams. That seems like a little bit of a foul-up, no? I mean, Budweiser is using the NHL logo without authorization, and they are doing nothing to support the game other than buying some fan tickets for life.

The thing that catches me about this whole debacle is that the team chosen by the fan doesn't have to provide the seats at all. For example, the Winnipeg Jets have their entire rink sold out for the next two seasons at minimum thanks to a successful season-ticket drive before the team arrived, so there aren't any season-ticket packages to be had if Budweiser wants to purchase one for a lucky fan next season. Since the Jets sold a minimum three-year commitment to the seats for all seats in the building, there won't be any seats available for purchase through the club until the 2014-15 season. And that's only if those who have those seats don't want to renew!

So unless Budweiser is buying one of the game-day tickets through the Jets for every home game, this will require an insane amount of administration on Budweiser's part if a fan in Winnipeg happens to win this contest. That also means that the fan will be moving around the arena on a nightly basis since there is no ticket for a guaranteed seat. Granted, most fans won't complain about seeing a hockey game for free, but if you win a contest, you should be guaranteed something better than a random nose-bleed section ticket, no?

I don't know - maybe I just have higher expectations from a company like Budweiser. I'm quite certain that the NHL and its teams have had a major change in their attitude towards Budweiser with this recent "unauthorized" contest, so it will be interesting to see how this all plays out. In the end, Budweiser still has to deliver on their promises of free tickets for life whether they have the NHL's blessing or not, and it will be interesting to see how the winner of this contest views Budweiser once all is said and done.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

***UPDATE: Budweiser will still "deliver on our Playoff Payoff Tickets for Life commitment to fans" with or without the NHL's blessing. Full details can be read here.***

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