In 1807, the brewer ran its first advertisement in the magazine Canadian Courant. The mid-1800s saw the company making changes to its packaging and branding to help promote the direct retail sales initiatives begun in 1859.
Molson is perhaps best known for its association with professional hockey, which began in 1957 when the brewery purchased the Montreal Canadiens and the arena they played in, the Montreal Forum. At that time Molson also became a co-sponsor of "Hockey Night in Canada." By then the company was dividing its advertising between Cockfield, Brown & Co. (representing the Montreal brewery) and MacLaren (Toronto brewery).
In the 1980s and '90s, ads for major beer brands began to look much alike. In 1994, Molson launched its "I Am Canadian" campaign for flagship brand Molson Canadian via MacLaren, using images such as a bungee jumper with a Canadian flag painted on his face, Canadian hockey hero Paul Henderson and a winning goal, and a toothy beaver.
The campaign also featured hard-edged music, outdoor imagery and the manic energy of extreme sports. The common thread linking the ads was their spirit of self-expression and their celebration of what it meant to be a young Canadian at the turn of a new century. While the campaign enabled the target audience (beer drinkers ages 19 to 34) to belong to a cohesive group and express their Canadian identity, it also allowed viewers to interpret what "I am Canadian" means to them.
Research indicated that as a result of the campaign, the target audience had highly positive associations with Molson Canadian beer. However, Canada's regionalism had, to some degree, limited the campaign's success. In the province of Quebec, for example, where separatist sentiments run high, the "I Am Canadian" campaign was not aired.
Molson was so pleased with the campaign that the company moved its Export brand to the agency. However, in May 1999, Molson fired MacLaren McCann, ending a 40-year relationship with the agency. The "I Am Canadian" campaign was relaunched by Bensimon Byrne D'Arcy, Toronto, which created the well-known "Rant" ad.
In addition to a Web page, Molson sponsors a "Youth Posse," a team of 35 young adults from across the country that visits bars and other pop music venues in search of new bands so that Molson can be at the leading edge of emerging trends in music. Information gathered by the team is used to implement Molson's grassroots marketing efforts.