- The Kraft Heinz Company is running its annual Kraft Hockeyville USA program, in which hockey communities across the U.S. and Canada compete for the chance to host an NHL pre-season game and win $150,000 in rink upgrades, the company announced in a press release.
- Announced during the New Year's Day broadcast of the NHL Winter Classic on NBC, the program's nomination process begins with communities sharing unique stories about their local rinks, teams, spirit and passion for the sport. What's new this year is that they'll then gain Rally Points for adding notes, uploading photos and videos and interacting with voters to bring their stories to life. Finalists are selected in March based on the quality of their stories and total Rally Points.
- Kraft Hockeyville USA is a partnership with the National Hockey League Players' Association, NHL and NBC Sports Group. The program launched in Canada in 2006 and has since impacted more than 80 hockey-loving communities and donated more than $4 million in rink updates across the U.S. and Canada, according to the company.
The Kraft Heinz Company's fourth annual campaign is built around consumer engagement to drive awareness about the program and traffic to the Kraft Hockeyville website as well as generate user-generated content on social media. Brands have attached their names and products to positive causes for a long time, but the growing role of mobile and social media in consumers' lives has reshaped the way they approach these types of efforts, as the Hockeyville push shows.
Sweepstakes and contests have long been a key part in marketers' arsenal, but adding a storytelling element and voter-based social media element takes the strategy one step further in helping consumers connect with the brand.
The program illustrates how many global brands are looking to directly engage local communities by asking loyal customers to share what's important to them on social media, which marketers see as a valuable corporate social responsibility initiative and cause-marketing strategy. Kraft Heinz Company has expanded its initiatives to focus more on community-building in its mission "To Be the Best Food Company, Growing a Better World."
Kraft Heinz Company isn't the only brand to have tapped a socially conscious or sweepstakes-based marketing tactic. Starbucks recently launched a holiday grassroots campaign, "Project Give Good," where "give good" squads handed out $1 million in $20 Starbucks giftcards at community celebrations across the U.S., including Christmas tree-lighting ceremonies. Starbucks used the hashtag #GiveGood on social media to serve as a hub of content on social media. Other brands, including Clif Bar and Columbia Sportswear have created similar social campaigns with a strong message of empowerment.
Social consciousness weighs heavily on the minds of millennials and the younger Gen-Zers as they begin to make major purchasing decisions and learn what brands they identify with — and thus purchase — more. With $2.45 trillion in buying power, millennials will reward brands for their CSR efforts, while Gen Zers born between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s have a strong sense of purpose and feel more connected to causes than their older generations in general. Sixty-nine percent of this young cohort think brands should help them achieve their goals, pointing to the potential success of the Hockeyville effort.