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Kokanee boosts Crankworx through ad campaign

Labbatt to look at more ways to get involved in promoting resort and brand in anticipation of 2010

By Andrew Mitchell

It may be “the beer out here”, but the message got out there better than the marketers at Kokanee or Crankworx could have hoped for.

If you tuned into any high definition NHL playoff hockey games this year from any market you would have seen an ad campaign for the Kokanee Crankworx mountain bike festival in Whistler. The ad, featuring an office worker who has to put a woman on his shoulders to get another person to recognize him from Crankworx, is still being broadcast on some stations. There is also a radio campaign on select stations in Alberta and B.C.

According to Tom Syer, director of corporate affairs for western Canada for Kokanee’s parent company Labbatt, the campaign was bigger than they could have expected.

“It was on CBC nationally, it got picked up by all of Sportsnet — it was supposed to be on Sportsnet Pacific, but it ended up being run nationally as well,” he said. “It was running on most channels in Vancouver and Victoria, as well as the A Channel, Kelowna, on networks in Alberta. I think it got a lot more mileage than we ever could have hoped for, and it’s always nice when that happens. It ended up being a national campaign, in heavy rotation on TV and radio.”

Syer would not say how much Labbatt has invested in the ads or buying time during hockey playoffs, but says that it ranks among the company’s bigger campaigns for this year.

“Suffice it to say it’s a big investment for Kokanee and the brand, but the results we get from people who show up to the festival and the broader reach (Crankworx) has been a great fit for us,” he said.

The Kokanee Crankworx mountain bike festival runs July 21-29. The festival is in its third year since replacing the Joyride festival, and has quickly evolved into one of the biggest downhill and freeride mountain bike events in North America, with hundreds of riders taking part. Some 15,000 fans are expected to watch the slopestyle event live this year.

Crankworx is also an initiative of Events Whistler, which means it’s jointly produced and supported by Whistler-Blackcomb, Tourism Whistler and the Resort Municipality of Whistler.

Labbatt is also a key sponsor of the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival, and according to Syer both events fit in with Kokanee’s image.

“(Crankworx) has been just a great counterpart and fit with the World Ski and Snowboard Festival, and the image that Crankworx has with the active mountain lifestyle and the fun is a perfect fit for the Kokanee brand,” he said.

They did not follow up with a print ad campaign this year, but Syer said it is being considered for next year. As well, Kokanee is running a Chill Check contest with three trips for two to Crankworx, 10 Kona bikes, and 1,000 pairs of Smith Optics sunglasses. Cans from special 18-packs will reveal the winners once they are cooled to a certain temperature.

During the festival itself, Syer says Kokanee will have a huge presence in Whistler and will run events and promotions on a daily basis.

While Labbatt currently has its hands full with the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival and Crankworx, Syer say Labbatt’s presence in Whistler could grow substantially if Budweiser is named an official sponsor of the 2010 Winter Games.

“We’re always looking to innovate with our partners, we just re-signed with Whistler-Blackcomb, and we’re still very much focused on the two big events,” said Syer. “But as the Olympics approach we might have a decision very soon if Budweiser will want to carry on its official sponsorship. If they do, then Labbatt as a parent company in Canada will have a stronger involvement going forward from there. That would mean having a significant presence in Whistler and Vancouver through 2010 and beyond.”

Anheuser-Busch, the parent company of the Budweiser brand, has been an Olympic sponsor for many years, including at last two Winter Games in Torino and Salt Lake City.

According to Breton Murphy, manager of community and media relations for Tourism Whistler, it’s hard to know exactly what impact the Kokanee ad campaign is going to have on bookings at this stage.

“It’s definitely getting the word out there, and I would be surprised if they didn’t inspire a few people to head to Whistler to check out the festival,” he said. “Last year we know a lot of people from Alberta came for the festival, and we didn’t even really advertise that much out of province, and the sport is hugely popular in Ontario and Quebec. Anytime a resort partner steps up with a major campaign designed to bring people to Whistler it’s a big deal for us, and this was a big campaign.”