Don’t surrender your brand: Lessons learned from the Montreal Canadiens

by | Feb 24, 2016 | Branding, Social Media, Sports

This season, the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens experienced the best start in franchise history with nine straight regulation wins. But star goalie Carey Price eventually got injured, and a season that began with so much promise began falling apart.

Plagued with poor on-ice performance and off-ice distractions, things couldn’t get much worse for the Habs right now.

MontrealCanadiansBut yesterday, they did.

That was the day the Canadiens launched a Twitter campaign allowing users to create an customized a Habs jersey with their Twitter handle on the name bar by simply tweeting the hashtag #CanadiensMTL1M. If a user used that hashtag, the Habs’ Twitter handle automatically placed the user’s handle on a photo of a custom jersey.

It was a social strategy strangely reminiscent of that of the NFL’s New England Patriots in 2014, which ended in utter failure. So what could go wrong?

With no filter in place or no one vetting Twitter handles, the Canadiens’ Twitter campaign was predictably hijacked. People with offensive and, in some cases, racist Twitter handles began tweeting the hashtag #CanadiensMTL1M, with their offensive handles retweeted by the Habs account for all to see.

Even rival fans from the Toronto Maple Leafs were tweeting from accounts such as @G0_LEAFS_GO and @GOLEAFSGO78.

By Wednesday, the Montreal Canadiens issued an apology and the stunt became another example of why you shouldn’t surrender your brand to the masses–and why automation of your social media engagement isn’t a good thing.

Brett Serjeantson