It’s been four years since we were first introduced to The Bear, the in-house gigantic beast for the Boston Bruins. Over that time he’s become an integral part of the NHL hockey club and nowhere is that more evident than this new “Christmas Spectacular” in which the furry friend gathers all his favorite Bruins for an epic holiday party.
There’s team captain Zdeno Chara hiding behind the tree, coach Claude Julien is staring out the window at snow monkeys and oh, Rene Rancourt–who’s been singing the national anthem at home games since 1976–can light fires with his magic dust. It’s a pretty weird scene.
Arnold Worldwide creative directors Greg Almeida and Travis Robertson say they’ve always approached these ads for the Bruins with the mindset of what the least likely way you’d expect an NHL hockey team to promote themselves. That’s what led to “The Bear & the Gang” in the first place.
“When it came to this season, we thought a Christmas Spectacular would be a fun way to kick off the year,” says Almeida. “With The Bear & the Gang we’ve always tried to break the stereotype of sports marketing. Rather than quick-cut, action montages of slap-shots and ice spray, we turned to the glory days of the television sitcom for inspiration–Charles In Charge, Dick Van Dyke, Family Ties–and certainly, the glorious network TV Christmas specials of the ’70s and ’80s.”
The entire cabin in the woods was built in a locker room at TD Garden, so the players didn’t have to venture far to get involved. Robertson says the Bruins were game for all the gags. “All of the Bruins are ridiculously down to Earth,” says Robertson. “They’re the kind of guys you want to get a beer with afterwards. They were down for anything. You want me to hide behind this Christmas tree? No problem. Pose with a weed whacker? You got it. Turn slowly with a ham? Absolutely.”
Four years is a lifetime for any advertising pitchman, but the Bear is still going strong. Part of that is the inherent silliness of a seven-foot bear hanging out with NHL players. But as lifelong Bruins fans, Almeida and Robertson pride themselves on the little subtleties and details that other fans can discover and appreciate as they watch the spots. “We live and breathe this team like everyone else in Boston,” says Almeida. “We try to reflect that in the work. We have this rare opportunity to be the voice of the fan. Which is something we don’t take for granted.”