SBJ/July 21-27, 2014/Marketing and Sponsorship

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  • Keeper of the Cup has a Fit in TV campaign

    He is one of hockey’s most recognizable faces, appearing now in a second national TV campaign, yet he doesn’t play the game.

    Phil Pritchard, the Hockey Hall of Fame curator more commonly known for donning white gloves in his role as the personal attendant of the Stanley Cup, is in a spot that debuted earlier this month for the 2015 Honda Fit. It follows his appearance in a 2011 Discover campaign in which he was seen attempting to book a flight for himself and the iconic trophy to Chicago.

    The Stanley Cup itself is unique among championship trophies. More than any other hardware, the Cup has developed into its own brand — and Pritchard, whose Twitter feed, @keeperofthecup, has more than 54,000 followers, credits his relative fame to his silver, 121-year-old co-star.

    “When I have the Cup on a flight, it’s pretty common for the pilot to make an announcement like, ‘We have true royalty on board,’” Pritchard said. “The Cup is a rock star. Everywhere I go, I allow for an extra 30 minutes because I know there’s going to be a lot of requests for selfies with the Cup.”

    The white-gloved Phil Pritchard stars in a new spot for the 2015 Honda Fit. 

    Although Pritchard has speaking parts in both the Honda and Discover ads, he was not required to register with the Screen Actors Guild. He was not compensated for his performances.

    “I didn’t have to get a SAG card because I was playing myself in the ads; a guy just doing his job,” Pritchard said. “No union, no lunch breaks, no scale, but I’m not complaining, because it’s a lot of fun.”

    In the spot for NHL sponsor Honda’s new compact vehicle, Pritchard, in his Cup-keeper uniform of blue blazer and white gloves, asks, “Can it fit the Stanley Cup?” Actor Nick Thune responds, “Yes,” and snaps a selfie that shows the Cup in the car.

    “We wanted to focus on the functionality of the Fit, with a humorous wink and a nod,” said Nicholas Lee, Honda national advertising manager. “So why not leverage our sponsorship of the NHL and get the Stanley Cup?”

    Santa Monica, Calif.-based agency RPA created the spot for Honda. The vehicle manufacturer has been an NHL sponsor since 2008. While its most recent deal expired after the 2013-14 season, an announcement on an extension is expected later this summer.

    Brian Cull, NHL group vice president of integrated marketing, said league sponsors are permitted to use the Stanley Cup and its marks in advertising, with NHL approval.

    “There’s a vetting process with the script through our legal department to make sure the Cup is used appropriately,” Cull said. “The Honda spot was an easy approval and smooth process. We love that they used Phil in the production because it adds authenticity.”

    The Fit commercial was filmed in April in a Los Angeles studio. When Pritchard arrived at the studio with the Cup to film his part, there were three different sets simultaneously active with actors filming their scenes for the commercial. But when Pritchard took the trophy out of its case, all production came to a halt. The director, Mike Maguire, yelled, “Cut!”

    “It was pretty funny — like a major celebrity came into the studio and everybody got wide-eyed,” said Lee, who was at the filming. “Mike Maguire happens to be a big New York Rangers fan, but he told everyone, ‘Let’s get the Cup scene done and out of the way, and then we’ll have plenty of time to take pictures.’ And that’s what they did. Phil nailed his part, and Mike took the Cup to the break room. For about 90 minutes, everyone involved in the commercial got their moment with the Stanley Cup.”

    Pritchard has accompanied the trophy just about everywhere since 1994, when NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman mandated heightening the trophy’s security and elevating its image. Before then, it was not uncommon for the Hockey Hall of Fame to ship the Cup on a flight to an event without an attendant. But Bettman insisted that the silver trophy be treated like gold.

    “I was on the first conference call when the commissioner asked for ideas to make the Cup presentation a bigger deal,” said Pritchard, who spent last week in Europe, taking it to the hometowns of members of the 2013-14 champion Los Angeles Kings. “When the Rangers won in 1994, that was the first time we brought it out wearing white gloves and matching blazers. Did I ever think I’d be doing TV commercials and get recognized on the street 20 years later? No way.”

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