There’s a new hamburger vying for your trio selections at McDonalds — at least in the Canadian province of Quebec. The “Max 67” is designed by, and named after, Max Pacioretty, the popular hockey-playing right-winger, who wears the #67 jersey for the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens. The 790-calorie burger brings a Mexican flavour to the restaurant chain’s menu — at least until sometime next month when it’s scheduled to be sunsetted.

Max 67

Using the theme of “Everybody loves Max”, advertising agency Cossette designed an ad that has Pacioretty, going undercover as a McDonalds employee, in the streets of Boston, MA., handing out the Max 67 burger to Boston Bruins fans. Made “especially for hockey fans” the Bruins fans who try it, love the burger, and are encouraged to say so — and they do. When they find out that it’s Max Pacioretty who’s just given them the burger and it’s named after him, one of them says, “I love the burger, but you gotta leave,” — with a typical Boston attitude.

The ad, which is trending on YouTube, is being promoted on tv and through social media, and will be especially loved by the Quebec audience where pulling gags are commonplace — both on morning radio shows and on tv — making shows like Just For Laughs, where jokes are played on unsuspecting passers-by, extremely popular.

Pacioretty is currently one of the most popular players of the Montreal Canadiens in a shortlist that includes defenseman, P.K. Subban and goalie, Carey Price. The Habs are playing well, topping the Eastern Conference in the race for the playoffs which will eventually decide the winners of hockey’s oldest trophy, the Stanley Cup and although not everyone in the province of Quebec is a Montreal supporter, most people are. The handsome 26-year-old American, from New Canaan, CT, was ping-ponged back and forth between the Habs and their farm team until the 2010-11 season when he was called up and really started to perform. That season, he became their first American player to score more than 30 goals in a season.

Why Everybody Loves Max

Close to the end of that season, a tragic hit endeared Max Pacioretty in the hearts of many hockey fans. In a home game against their rivals, the Boston Bruins, Pacioretty was hit by Zdeno Chara, the Bruin’s 6’9″ defenseman. Flying headfirst into the stanchion between the benches, Pacioretty landed on the ice, unconscious; 911 was quickly flooded with calls from fans worried for the life of their player. Suffering from a concussion and fractured vertabrae, Pacioretty was out for the remainder of that season, and an 9-month investigation was launched by police as to whether criminal charges should be laid in the hit, which landed Chara a 5-minute major and a game misconduct. They did not press charges. The NHL did not suspend Chara, the Bruin’s captain, for the hit either, but made changes to the arena designed to prevent trauma if a player went headfirst into the stanchion ever again.

In hockey-hungry Quebec, where people talk about hockey all the time, they shifted their focus and talked about the hit, about Pacioretty, about Chara. When Pacioretty was cleared to start playing at the beginning of the 2011-12 season — and then he started playing well — his fans fell in love with him.

Better Than Expected

Two days after the ad was uploaded to YouTube, talk of Pacioretty tricking the Boston fans was the hot topic on most hockey news sites. For McDonalds, picking the beloved Pacioretty and headlining him now may return results that are better than even they ever expected. That’s because he’s on fire and currently ranked as the 3rd best scoring leader, with 35 goals.

That, the great season the Canadiens are having, and the love the Quebecois have for the red, blue and white means McDonalds will score big with the Max 67 campaign.

Unintentional Marketing

The Hamburglar, Ronald, the Grimace and Birdie courtesy Wikia.

Back in the 70’s, McDonalds developed a group of characters that were used to help market burgers to children. One of those characters, the Hamburgler, ranks 8th on Brittny Drye’s list of 10 Creepiest Fast Food Mascots on CafeMom.

“Burglars are scary enough on their own, so why would anyone make a fast food restaurant mascot out of one. Plus that creepy little cackle he does when he steals burgers.”
– Brittny Drye

Whether you remember the Hamburglar character — or if you find him creepy or not — the Hamburglar is back and McDonalds is profiting from an unintentional but welcomed source.

Two hours away from Montreal, the Ottawa Senator‘s new goalie, Andrew Hammond, has been standing on his head, stopping goals in a way that no one really expected.

At the end of January, 2015, when the 26-year-old rookie from Surrey, B.C. was called up from their farm team, it was on an emergency basis because of injuries. Hammond had never skated in an NHL game before, and, from the looks of things, he decided that if he got the chance, he wasn’t going to let this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity slip away.

Just like wine that only gets better with age, Hammond was ready. When he got his chance between the pipes, he did what he’s been doing for most of his life – he started, and continued, and kept on – stopping the puck. Again and again and again.

It took about six games after Hammond started occupying the crease for the hockey world to start talking about him and his team. His extraordinarily impressive .935 save percentage is just below that of the league’s leading goaltender, Carey Price, at .937. Hammond has helped his team overcome the odds with a chance of a wild card for the 2015 playoffs — something that didn’t look very likely when he made his NHL debut in February.

“The Hamburglar” nickname has caught on, and fans, so elated with Hammond’s performance, have been showering the ice with McDonalds hamburgers after wins. This has opened up a sidebar about how it’s a great waste of food, but Senators fans seem intent on stocking up on the 240 calorie burger before games, in hopes that Hammond continues performing as well as he has been so they can show their appreciation.

 McDonalds and Hockey

McDonalds and hockey have a relationship that extends back more than 40 years — that’s how long the golden arches have been involved with sponsorship of minor hockey. Their atoMc and Team McDo programs for atom-aged players (9-10) and bantam-aged players (13-14) respectively, are the only minor hockey sponsorship initiatives endorsed by Hockey Canada. The program, which helps 50,000 players yearly, boasts 3 Canadian Olympians as ambassadors: Canadian Olympic gold medallists: Drew Doughty (2010 and 2014), Marc-André Fleury (2010) and Tessa Bonhomme (2010).

As for the Olympics themselves, McDonalds involvement dates back to 1968 when they airlifted hamburgers to American athletes competing in the Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France. Although this wasn’t corporate sponsorship and more of a publicity stunt, it was at a time when McDonalds was just beginning to embrace sports sponsorship. It got its feet wet the year before when it bought Super Bowl ads on both networks broadcasting Super Bowl I. The $175,000 expense netted the company 60 million viewers, dovetailing nicely with a hamburger price increase that went from 15 to 18 cents.

For the 1976 Summer Olympics which were held in Montreal, Quebec, McDonalds became an official sponsor for the very first time. Since then, the company has sponsored both Summer and Winter Olympics and it became a Worldwide sponsor in 1996. Its restaurants on village sites are manned by specially selected employees who are relocated to the Olympic village throughout the games.

McDonalds is active in local markets too. In St. Louis, for example, each time the Blues score 4 goals or more at home, ticket holders can redeem their ticket stub for a free Big Mac or Quarter Pounder with Cheese the day following a game. New in 2015, the McD app lets Blues fans get “a buy 1 get 1 free” on those two products even if the 4 goals are scored in an away game.

Whether the campaigns were intentional – like the Max 67 touted by Max Pacioretty – or unintentional – like the Hamburglar and Andrew Hammond – both are a marketer’s dream come true, getting a specific audience to talk, post and retweet. Through these events, and their continual dedication to the sport, McDonalds has become a part of the hockey culture.

Ba da ba ba ba!