Next Media Stars: Rick Kusch scores new beer moments

The UM media strategy supervisor is activating the moment between when a goal is scored and fans jump out of their seats with Budweiser Red Lights.

The only constant in today’s media biz is change. That’s why MiC and strategy reached out to industry leaders for the seventh straight year to get the goods on their up-and-coming staffers who are putting the latest innovations into action.

From in-home, app-powered hockey goal alarms to campaigns looking to dive into deeper metrics, this year’s Next Media Star nominees are working hard to better the industry.

Read about the contenders this week on MiC and in the May issue of strategy and keep your eyes peeled for the winner, chosen by the strategy Media Agency of the Year jury and announced at the Agency of the Year awards gala this November.

With its latest campaign around hockey, Budweiser is trying to capture that moment between a scored goal and fans jumping out of their seat, says Rick Kusch, media strategy supervisor and lead on the Budweiser account at UM in Toronto.

Kusch spearheaded the media plan behind Bud’s “Red Lights” campaign, the second in a series of hockey-themed spots the beer co. launched during its sponsorship of the Super Bowl.

The Red Light is a portable Wi-Fi-connected light that can be installed in your living room and goes off every time a fan’s favourite team scores. Apparently, this is something all Canadians need, because the website, where fans can buy the product for $149, crashed from too many visitors after the spot first aired, and the brand is now taking orders for June shipments.

A second piece of the campaign utilizes Bud’s sponsorship of Hockey Night in Canada on CBC with an on-screen alert “scoring bug” ? a red light that appears on TV during a game to notify viewers when a Canadian NHL team scores a goal.

“The brand essence of Budweiser is all about taking a connection or moment and making it better,” says Kusch. “That’s where the idea of the Red Lights came from. It’s about how can we take this time that is already awesome for the fans and make it better?”

Whether Budweiser could go ahead with a Feb. 3 Super Bowl media plan revolving around the NHL wasn’t clear until the lockout ended on Jan. 6. Kusch says the month between was the busiest¬† of his career to date.

But it’s not the first time Kusch has launched new work with the beer brand amid tricky circumstances. The idea to focus on amateur hockey came about in the brand’s 2012 Super Bowl campaign, when its creative agency, Anomaly, suggested it as a solution for Budweiser losing the rights to be the official beer of the NHL.

The 2012 campaign, which UM Canada worked on, filmed two amateur hockey teams given the pro treatment  and was set up to go viral through social media and blogger seeding prior to the big game, says Kusch.

“Before the spot even hit the airwaves during the Super Bowl, it had over one million views on YouTube.”

Kusch took the campaign one step further, working with CTV to cut the station’s first-ever near real-time follow-up spot to air during the Super Bowl’s third quarter. The spot, which captured reactions from the amateur athletes seeing themselves on-screen at a VIP party, was shot at 4 p.m. the day of the Super Bowl and turned around to be shown later in the game.

That game-time excitement is shared by Kusch for his job. He says that he got into media because it was one of the few things he studied at Mohawk College that didn’t feel like schoolwork.

“With any job there are going to be times when you’re working all hours of the night doing work that you don’t really feel like doing,” he says. “But working in media, there are also the other times where you wake up in the middle of the night with a great idea, write it down and then a few months later it is part of a campaign that millions of Canadians are seeing.”

Up next for Kusch is more work on the Red Lights campaign, with top-secret pieces expected to launch before the end of 2013.