Kraft Hockeyville – Emotional Manipulation At It’s Best

Started in 2006, the Kraft Hockeyville competition  is hosted by Kraft Canada and CBC Television. It pits Canada’s towns and cities against one another in a hockey match, to eventually crown a winner. The nation gets to showcase its community spirit and commitment to the sport of hockey, for a nice prize.
The prize for the lucky locale, being $100,000 towards upgrades to their home arena, a “Hockey Night In Canada” broadcast from their community, and a pre-season NHL game hosted in their arena.

Before going any further, I will start with a short list of stereotypes that Canadians en mass, willfully propagate (and often get exploited, in doing so).

One of them is the sheer and unbreakable collective pride we have in spending money at Tim Horton’s. Its not that I have anything against the chain, I enjoy a cup of Timmy’s (along with a sandwich, soup, Chile or a donut) occasionally. But even if its named after a hockey player , its still a fast food establishment. They create just as much litter and garbage, as any other american fast food establishment that I could name.

And then there is Canada’s fascination with all things hockey. Our unofficial national sport for generations, and national pastime for a great many of our citizens (be it participation, or just watching). An activity that some feel is such a token of national pride, that they consider those who do not have any interest in the sport, to not be “true” Canadians.

Fortunately enough, such idiots are relativity few and far between. But the resounding message sent to the world can still be annoying to contend with. Like when people in other nations are flabbergasted that you have no interest in hockey.

To most, this national obsession would seem to be a harmless thing. I am reminded of the way many in southern states view patriotism and national pride. Just as the Red, White and Blue inspires pride in many of them, a hockey puck and a stick inspires pride in many Canadians.

But those with lots of pride, joy, or any other domineering emotion towards a subject, are vulnerable to emotional manipulation. Just as proponents of abortion will very likely  respond positivity to cues in an article that is supporting their cause (even if its full of bias and/or misinformation), so to will hockey fans to positive stimuli surrounding hockey. Although there is a huge difference between an abortion proponent and a hockey fan, the underlying connection is emotion.

A perfect example of emotional manipulation, just happened not even a month ago.

In the lead up to the 2013 Christmas rush, the airline Westjet made a viral youtube video that showcased their “generosity”.

They had a “Santa” ask passengers of an outgoing flight what they wanted for Christmas. The answers ranged from socks to tablets. The video then followed the process of the passengers travels to the destination, and unknown to them, the steps in making all the Christmas “wishes” come true for the people. Upon arrival at the destination, the gifts were given out along with the luggage, and all the passengers went to their destinations happily.

I did not view the video, seeing it for what it was right off the bat (though I did hear the audio, as it was played in front of me for someone else). Of course, the collective reaction of most on social media and everywhere was positive, and the video was shared widely. Everyone wanted to showcase this “Christmas Miracle”, some even saying that they were glad to have booked their flight though Westjet because of their “generosity”.

But all I seen was, what amounted to little more then a viral advertisement. Yes, the company filled the on the spot wish-lists of some lucky passengers. So?
If they are flying, then chances are good that they hardly needed the generosity to begin with (show me a nice donation to a charity helping the less fortunate, and ill change my tune). And in the grand scheme of things, the amount of money spent on the gifts, is bugger all to the exposure (and then revenue) generated by the video. A video, of which many skipped a proceeding advertisement in order to view. An aspect that I find truly ironic.

Which brings me to hockeyville.

Kraft is a company that manufactures all kinds of food products. From condiments, coffee, peanut better and all sorts of other items, they make it. But despite the huge line of products offered, I would be hard pressed to think of anything even reasonably “healthy”.

The way I see it, is that one could  not lead a professional (or even an amateur) athletic lifestyle, if they subsisted only on kraft products. Sure, you might say “but no one eats ONLY kraft food products!”, and you would be right. However, the main products that I see being pushed in this contest by Kraft are their brand of coffee, 12 packs of their Mac & cheese, cheeze spread, mayonnaise, and a variety of other not so healthy offerings. People are associating the contest with the product, and buying (healthy option or not). That is the biggest problem I have with the contest.

Kraft is hardly the first company to exploit a chosen demographic to pedal its products. Last year, I wrote a piece about Nos energy drink (Coke) doing the very same thing, by having George St Pierre as their poster boy. And recently, I began to see various hockey players gracing the fronts of many Post cereal varieties

Though I do point a finger at Kraft for using the irrational pride of a nation to line its pockets, they are not the only ones who should shoulder blame. It is the consumer who voluntarily makes the purchase.

It is for this reason, that I also point the finger at you, the unquestioning, blind, easily manipulated consumer.

Be a fan. Live it, love it, breath it. Having passion for hockey, or any sport is not a bad thing. But don’t be stupid.

Don’t feed yourself or your family an array of unhealthy garbage food  just because the manufacturer ignites a storm of hype, then  throws out a dime.

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