The seven-episode prime-time series kicked off in March on Canada's public TV station, CBC, after two months soliciting applications. Communities showed off their community spirit and devotion to the national sport, vying for a chance to win the Hockeyville title and stage an NHL exhibition game in their town. The hourlong shows featured winning submissions, and a panel of judges and viewers voted, narrowing the field to one champion.
The show tapped into hockey -- a sport nine out of 10 Canadians participate in, play or watch -- but it "captured the hearts of Canadians" well beyond Kraft's expectations, said Sandra Cifersons, director of media for Kraft Canada. The effort, coordinated with the help of MediaVest Canada, was expected to draw at least 75 to 100 applications, but it wound up attracting more than 450 applications from communities all over the country. Kraft actually had to reprint point-of-sale materials when its retail partners ran out of application forms.
Presenting sponsor Home Depot helped fuel interest by awarding the winning community a $50,000 gift card to upgrade its local hockey arena. A slew of publicity from print and broadcast outlets all over Canada put the winning town, Salmon River, Nova Scotia, on the map.
As a result of the fervor, Kraft Canada saw double-digit sales increases for participating brands, which included Post cereals, Maxwell House and Delissio pizzas. The CBC-developed website for the program (cbchockeyville.ca) was one of the broadcaster's most trafficked sites ever.
Given the series' stellar results, Kraft Canada has signed on with CBC for "Hockeyville: Year 2," which will begin in January.
The big question for Kraft, of course, is whether it could replicate the success of "Hockeyville" in the U.S. The answer, for now, is no.
The package-goods behemoth has considered reproducing the program here -- even going so far as to name a committee and trademark the names Basketballville, Baseballville and Footballville for use in a TV series -- but the idea has been tabled for now, according to an executive close to the company.
The decision is likely due to this country's more complex media environment and the difficulty of finding a sport that would rally U.S. consumers the way hockey does in Canada. But "never say never," the executive said. Towns all over America could one day stand up to proclaim themselves "Baseballville" -- Kraft Baseballville, that is.