“In the 1980s, the Alouettes left Montreal and only returned in 1996 when the Baltimore Stallions moved up North. Therefore, there are two generations of Quebecers who did not grow up with our team, and for whom the club’s identity only started to resonate during the winning 2000 to 2010 decade,” said Paul-André Côté during his speech to the Sponsorship Marketing Council Canada. “We need to remind those generations of our history, and to give them more reasons to come to love our brand.”
The Alouettes’ Vice-President of Integrated Marketing and Business Development was blunt: when you post losing seasons in Montreal, you lose your fans, you lose your employees, you lose your benchmarks… and, sometimes, you can become… completely lost.
“It’s normal to lose direction after several years of instability on all fronts, but we’ll never accept taking the ‘do nothing’ approach.”
On February 1 this year, we unveiled our new brand identity in front of an eclectic crowd: season ticket members, journalists, fans, sports enthusiasts from various milieus, Quebec celebrities and friends of VICE all came together to form an improbable group that beautifully represented Montreal’s diversity. Everyone – whether die-hard Alouettes fan or not – is part of this major turning point. It’s not everyday that a team decides to refurbish – heck, reinvent – everything: its DNA, its uniform, its slogan and its logo. And it’s no small matter to come to accept this type of change for the fans who think back fondly to the great Anthony Calvillo years and who proudly wear the team’s colours.
“Our Alouettes played in the Grey Cup game eight times between 2000 and 2010, winning three of those games. The brand’s DNA was grounded in winning. We were a championship organization during a decade when the Canadiens were trying to find themselves and the Impact were playing in the North American Soccer League. The environment was favourable for us,” Côté said. “Even if the primary goal remains to win, it is important that our organizational culture and our personality does not depend upon it.”
So, how – in the team’s current context – does one reach out to a generation of potential fans who do not have much of a historic attachment to the team’s branding… while at the same time not ignoring all those who stuck with the team through thick and thin?
That was the challenge faced by GRDN – our valued collaborator in this massive undertaking. They had to take all these factors into account when creating our new look. Piecing together three key elements – a plane to represent the Royal Canadian Air Force’s 425th tactical fighter squadron, a bird representing the team’s name and an M for the city the team represents – gave birth to the logo which, uniquely, is affixed to the top of the players’ helmets. There was never a question of forgetting or ignoring our history and our origins, but it was also imperative that we include the values which make Montreal the vibrant metropolis that it is today: creative, open, diversified, passionate, prideful, resilient and full of joie de vivre. Those values are our values. They define Montréals. There’s no age limit to adopt these values or identify with them. And there’s no age limit to love football, either.
Keep in mind that being a sports fan isn’t the same as it was 25 years ago, the Alouettes Vice-President of Integrated Marketing and Business Development said in his presentation.
“Season ticket memberships are declining, not only for us, but for everyone. As an organization, we need to re-think our offers to address the needs of today’s sports fan.”
The days of straightforward ticket sales are over. Fans want more now, they want to leave the stadium happy having just had a unique experience. For the second consecutive season, football fans will be able to purchase seats in the BBQ terrace or in the All You Can Eat section. The party animals will be able to enjoy the return of Budweiser Friday Night Lights when beer goes for $7.00 or might want to check out the new Huddle section with its terrace catering to social media aficionados.
“We eventually want to provide even more flexibility and more value for our season ticket members,” added Côté. “We’re presently working with Lune Rouge to develop technology that will offer virtual Montréals wallets. For example, a fan could obtain a $2,500 card which contains $2,000 worth of tickets to use at their own convenience, $500 in the boutique and a $1,000 bonus to be used with one of our commercial partners. The card would be rechargeable and also would give access to exclusive credits.”
Obviously, connecting with such a heterogeneous community can’t only be done with just a logo and new products.
“It’s one thing to say that we’re Montréals, but we have to go from a PowerPoint presentation to reality. We have to be an active part of life in Montreal by integrating ourselves in each of the key activity sectors: the worlds of business and innovation, fashion and culture, music and entertainment, sport, food and education.”
An unexpected partnership with VICE QUÉBEC saw the light of day in 2018: The non-conformist media outlet will have its logo on the team’s official jerseys this year. The agreement creates an opportunity to reach a market that, normally, would not be in contact with our brand, and to address varied subjects like veganism or mental health, which are relevant to both our players and affected members of the public.
“The strategy is based upon collaborating with other Montreal brands. And our partners are a key component. At the launch, for instance, we decided to work with four trendy Montreal restaurants. We have also worked with local musicians and the Off the Hook boutique created exclusive products,” said Côté. “The idea is to become a reflection of Montreal, to develop alliances in each of the sectors, to use our platforms to shine a light on other local companies and vice versa. Why not even build bridges between ourselves and the other Montreal-area sports teams that would benefit both fans and sponsors?”
That our new partners believe in this project is priceless. Keeping those who’ve been sporting the team’s colours for years on board is priceless. Well, maybe not priceless since the ultimate goal is visibility.
“BMO played a key role in the launch of our new identity,” confirmed Côté. “The bank is a veritable pillar of our city. It’s exactly the type of business that we want to be associated with.”
The fit was equally perfect for BMO, according to Marie-Pier Bergevin, Senior Manager – Sponsorships and Brand Engagement, North America at BMO.
“Our history and our values were certainly the foundation for our interest in partnering with the Alouettes. The Bank of Montreal was founded more than 200 years ago. Over the course of those two centuries, our institution has experienced many adventures that our employees tackled together as a team,” she said. “The DNA of our institution is derived from the values of cooperation, passion and diversity.”
For 20 years, the team’s major partner has been present on the field to provide unique experiences for football fans.
“For us, it’s imperative to assume the role of a fan and not simply of a bank, and working with the Alouettes is a great example of doing that,” said Bergevin. “It explains why we so enthusiastically entered into this sports partnership. It is essential for us to support the team in this new era and ensure both of our organizations shine. Our involvement is a testament to our support of the Alouettes, but also towards our city!”
At the official launch, as well in context of several BMO / Alouettes tuque distribution activities highlighting the big reveal, the bank was able to reach the community in an entertaining way. The BMO brand has also now been connected with a transformation that generated between 80 and 90 million impressions in a two-week period along with a return on investment ratio of 13:1.
Together, our team and the BMO team got the media’s attention over the course of an entire weekend. And not just any weekend: it was Super Bowl weekend! We successfully drew the attention of not only Montrealers but Canadians from all parts of the country in the midst of an important event in the sports world… and our players weren’t even on the field.
And we’re just getting started.
“We’re hoping that being ‘Toujours Game’ will take root in the lives and hearts of Quebecers, and will also give them pride in their city. We’re not just a team of 46 players and a coaching staff, we are 8 million and have an entire island to rep for,” concluded Côté.