Stick Handling the Brand

One of my favourite times of the year is Christmas. Yes, I love the season for all the traditional trappings but it also happens that my birthday is on December 26th and of course the IIHF World Junior Hockey Tournament typically begins on that same day (although this year it started on the 25th). Tis the season!

We often refer to delicate situations or relationships in business that need to be handled with care or ‘managed through’ as needing to be stick handled – I’ve found this to be true with brand management too. Organizations allocate significant resources and energy to making sure their brand is properly visually represented in the public sphere. Guardians of the brand take special care to make sure it is so. Nowhere is this more evident, or so I thought, than with Hockey Canada’s elite U20 program.

Slick TV spots are splashed across our screens starting in mid November, tapping into a national psyche that longs for this tourney every year. In an era where nationalism is a politically charged word, rallying around the TV with family and friends regaled with Team Canada hoodies and hats to watch Canada play perennial powerhouses Russia and the USA gives me a profound sense of pride – sport has the undeniable power to do this.

How is it that the brand stewards at Hockey Canada, who along with corporate partners like Nike, go to painstaking efforts to make sure the team uniform designs are on point (and every brand touchpoint for that matter), utterly fail when it comes to dressing the coaching staff? I mean who drops the ball on this year after year!? Have you seen Canada’s head coach, André Tourigny, and his assistant coaches in this years’ tournament and the motley ensembles they’ve adorned behind the bench? And for the record, this year is no anomaly.

While the Euro coaches clearly have a team stylist in the dressing room, the Canadian coaches look like they stopped by the thrift shop on the way into the bubble in downtown Edmonton. While some might say it’s the scoreboard that matters, from a pure brand perspective it is a glaring inconsistency. I’ve been accused of sweating the small stuff, but when it comes to details like this, if I were my client, I’d be glad I did.

We’ll get ‘em next year Canada!

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