Pure Hockey Commercials Part IV

By Jeff Copetas, VP of Marketing & E-Commerce

Our last post provided some insight into how we, um, “casted” the commercials and included interviews with the “actors,” who actually turned out to be GREAT actors even though they weren’t actually actors. Did that make sense? Either way, today, in our fourth and final installment of a look behind the curtain at the making of the Pure Hockey TV commercials, we’ll look at the day we shot the Brad Marchand commercial and also have a quick chat with the man behind the vision, Director and Devils fan Rodrigo Lopez.

We were originally scheduled to shoot the Brad Marchand commercial on September 13, exactly one day after we shot the David Clarkson commercial down in New Jersey. There was just one problem: Marchand hadn’t signed a contract yet with the Bruins. So during the David Clarkson shoot, I found myself on the phone with Brad’s agent, trying to figure out what was going on. Then I went to Boston.com and saw trade rumors. We had a decision to make – spend the money on a TV production shoot for a player who might not play in Boston or roll the dice and shoot the commercial and hope Marchand signed? What would you do? He was skating with the team, so that was a good sign, right? Despite that, we opted out of shooting the commercial the next day – too risky.

The problem with that – we’d have to find a way to schedule Brad during the NHL season and let me tell you, that wasn’t easy. At all. Not only are you trying to coordinate the schedules of a TV production team at Neoscape, you’re also trying to schedule the two main actors and THEN Brad’s schedule. We had a few hit-and-misses and finally, finally, finally were able to shoot the commercial on Sunday, November 13th, the night after the Bruins played Buffalo and now known as the game where Milan Lucic ran over Ryan Miller.

All well and good. Most of us arrived at the Pure Hockey Braintree store at about 9am and it wasn’t long before we were shooting the first few scenes. In both TV shoots, we tried to get as much of the non-Marchand/Clarkson video shot before the player actually got there. So the scenes where Lou and Brian (store manager and assistant manager) are talking to each other were shot in the morning and the scenes with Brad were shot completely seperate, despite the fact that the commercial seems to flow pretty well. Tribute to Neoscape there (and all other TV production firms, I suppose this happens every day).

So Brad arrives at about 2pm and we usher him right into the office for prep and to sign a few things for the store. Keep in mind that we are contracted with Brad for only a few hours, so we wanted to keep his coming into Braintree pretty quiet to avoid too much fandom and to get our commercial shot. The first shot we did with Brad was the helmet scene, which seems to be people’s favorite, in general. Originally the helmet scene was a little more friendly. The way Neoscape had story-boarded this, Brad was to give the customer a few taps, fairly hard – and that’s how the first few shots went. Originally it was Brad giving him a pat on the head in quick succession – taptaptap. But it wasn’t enough. And it wasn’t hard enough. So we did another couple of takes with the taps in quick succession.

But something was missing. So I asked Rodrigo and Brad to slow down the hits, space them out a little, make ’em a little harder, then have a slightly odd pause – and then a final WHACK! That is what you see in the final version. Good stuff!

It wasn’t long, though, before word got out about Brad being in our store. In this immediate news world, people were posting to Twitter and Facebook that he was at the Braintree store shooting a commercial and soon enough, we had small crowds around us during each scene. Manageable, but a little distracting. We expected it on a Sunday in our busiest store, so it wasn’t a huge deal and Brad couldn’t have been more accomodating and patient with people. He signed a lot of stuff, posed for a lot of pictures and was very friendly.

We finished up about 6pm and that was that! The commercial came out awesome and the general public seems to have agreed!

One other funny little story – Brad hadn’t heard the comments that Ryan Miller made about Lucic, so we showed him the video in the office. He got a kick out of it for sure.

Finally, our verbosity about these commercials wouldn’t be complete without some input from the Director of both shoots, Neoscape’s Rodrigo Lopez. I haven’t done many TV commercial shoots, but I can tell you without pause that Rodrigo and the rest of his team were instrumental – no, crucial – in making sure these things went off without a hitch. To a person, the Neoscape crew was friendly, patient, fun and most importantly, super-prepared and focused. It was an absolute pleasure working with these guys. Here’s a quickie interview with Rodrigo:

So you directed all three Pure Hockey commercials over the past few months. Besides the total, complete, life-changing thrill of working with a company like Pure Hockey (ahem), what was the most enjoyable part of the process?

Well, there’s all the fame, fortune and recognition, which has been somewhat life-changing. But in all seriousness, what I enjoyed the most was watching the plan come together during shoot days. We always like to prepare just enough so that you leave room for spontaneity, particularly when there isn’t any time to rehearse. That approach definitely helped with these three spots.

Were these commercials materially different in any way than others that you’ve done in the “normal” course of your work?

These commercials were definitely a departure from the work I do on a daily basis at Neoscape, where I direct a lot of CG and VFX work for marketing films. We do a lot with live action and actors, but here the pressure was definitely on to direct spots that not only had to stand on their own, but be funny as well. We had good material to work with! Plus, we do our best work under pressure so this was a welcome challenge.

Were you surprised by how well our two store employees (Lou and Brian) were on camera? I mean, we basically had no cast for these things until the day of the first commercial!

I thought Marchand and Clarkson were incredibly funny, each in their own way, but I can’t imagine these spots with anyone other than Lou and Brian. They were awesome! When they first read for us on the morning of the Clarkson shoot down in Fairfield, I knew we had our guys. They looked like they had just walked off the set of Clerks – another Jersey masterpiece. I remember thinking to myself as we were wrapping up the shoot in New Jersey, “we need to get these guys up to Boston for the shoot at the Braintree store.” Luckily Jeff was able to make it work.

It’s a small sample size, but what were your thoughts and impressions re: working with professional athletes?

I’m not a big celebrity hound, but the few times I’ve been around athletes, and hockey players in particular, I’ve found them to be very humble and altogether normal. Clarkson and Marchand were no different. As a Devils fan I was excited to meet David Clarkson. I’ve been watching him drop gloves on TV for years but in person he was very down to earth and a super nice guy. Heck, I even had to show him how hard to check one of the employees during the shoot because he was afraid of hurting the guy! And what can you say about Brad Marchand? Everyone saw what he did in the playoffs during the Bruins Cup run last summer, and then for several weeks after that around every bar in Boston. I was even wondering if he’d show up to the shoot shirtless (he didn’t). On the day of his shoot in Braintree there were a ton of customers in the store, and he managed to not only put in one heck of a performance for the cameras, but also found time to sign plenty of autographs.

What was the most difficult part of the shoots, in your eyes?

I can’t think of anything that was particularly difficult, but shoots are always a bit nerve wracking. For the two player spots we were limited to a few hours with the talent – that’s where planning and a great crew make all the difference. I can say that often times what makes a shoot difficult is an over anxious clients, but working with Jeff/Pure Hockey was totally different. We collaborated very seamlessly during the creative and planning stages, and he had complete confidence in us once we went into the shoots. He even delivered his own award-winning performance as “the customer” in the Clarkson spot.

You think the Devils have ANY chance this year?

I really hope so. As a fan, I used to get a lot of mileage out of the fact that they won 3 cups in 8 years. But now that’s quickly becoming a distant memory. Plus, Brodeur needs one more cup to end his Hall of Fame career in style.

Pure Hockey TV Commercials Part III

By Jeff Copetas, VP Of Marketing & E-Commerce

Well, when we left you last, we told you all about how the script got written, working with a production company and the day we shot the first commercial with the Devils David Clarkson. I think it’s pretty interesting to now let us explain how we casted the commercials.

First off, we didn’t do any casting. What, you ask? NO casting? Well…..nope. Hey look, we don’t have the money to be holding multiple casting sessions for professional actors. We were gonna wing this one! So we simply had almost the entire staff of our Fairfield, NJ store show up the morning of the shoot and we MADE them audition. That’s right – we had each employee stand in front of the camera at 8:30 am and read cue cards and I relied on the Neoscape production crew to pick who would be the best. Boy, did they hit a home run!

The “store manager” role is played by Lou D’elia and the “assistant store manager” role ended up being played by Brian Rossman. We knew after shooting the first scene that morning that we had made the right decision. Both guys are funny, nice dudes and have wildly unrealistic expectations for thier New Jersey Devils team this year  – and much to our surprise and delight, they were absolutely terrific on camera. We had visions of a young Jay & Silent Bob – and we were in the right state for it! Anyway, these two guys not only were good on camera, but pretty much nailed every scene. We did do some multiple takes where we had them saying slightly different things, but there were pretty much no outtakes or bloopers.

But don’t let me get bogged down in excessive verbosity – let’s hear from the lead actors as they answer a few of the same questions:

Lou D’Elia – “store manager”

How did you first discover Pure Hockey down there in New Jersey and how did it compare to other stores in the area?

My friend Josh took me. He told me “you have to see the size of this place!” There still is no other store in the our area (Tri-State) that comes close to Pure Hockey.

Did you have any inkling at all (or desire) to actually have the lead role in one of our commercials?

I was told I was going to be a background character in the commercial. I might have one line. The morning of the shoot I was informed that I would be the co-lead with Rossman.

What was the most surprising thing about filming a real television commercial?

How supportive the film crew was.  They were very easy to work with and helped me with everything. The Director (Rodrigo) was so easy going and made me feel relaxed because I was extremely nervous (editors note: he didn’t seem nervous at all).

Have any strangers said anything to you about seeing you in the commercial?

No strangers yet but my friends and fellow season ticket holders have either mentioned it or called me.

What was the last thing you laughed really hard at?

Brian Rossman can make anyone laugh.

What is your realistic prediction for the Devils this year?

Stanley Cup Champions. Marty for Conn Smythe (editors note: ummmm……uhhhhh…..cough…….hack)
Brian Rossman – “assistant manager”

How did you first discover Pure Hockey down there in New Jersey and how did it compare to other stores in the area?

At the time I was working at a local pro shop when I heard the Pure Hockey was opening. My buddies were looking for jobs and I suggested applying there. I took a ride down with them to the store to check it out for myself. When I walked in I was beside myself, never in my life had I seen such a large selection of hockey equipment! When I saw the goalie section (me being a goalie), I was just in heaven. I recognized one of the managers (Ray Tanis) and he suggested that I apply for a job….and the rest was history.

Did you have any inkling at all (or desire) to actually have the lead role in one of our commercials?

When I heard that Pure Hockey would be filming a commercial and that staff would have a chance to be in it, I was very interested. I thought it would be a cool experience and even cooler to be on TV. In high school, in addition to being on the hockey team, I was also an “A.V. nerd”, I knew the in’s and out’s of producing high school programming, but it was especially cool to work with a professional film crew.

What was the most surprising thing about filming a real television commercial?

The most surprising thing about filming a real television commercial was how easy going the film crew was. I thought they were going to be super serious and make it a stressful experience – but I could not have been more wrong. The film crew were very laid back and made the whole experience fun.

Have any strangers said anything to you about seeing you in the commercial?

In addition to close friends and family, I have been very surprised as to how many people recognize me. People I haven’t talked to in years have contacted me saying they saw me on TV, and many customers in the store recognize me as well.

What was the last thing you laughed really hard at?

My trip up to Braintree with Lou D’elia, nonstop laughter (editors note: they were so good, we made them come up to Braintree, MA for the Brad Marchand commercial)

What is your realistic prediction for the Devils this year?

Legit cup contender, we’re a good team with little identity – after last season teams might underestimate us. If we play to our true potential then we’ll be taking the cup this year. (editors note: no you won’t)
In all seriousness, we could have been up the proverbial creek if Lou and Brian hadn’t been so awesome. We thank them and the fact that they’re both really awesome, funny guys made it all the better.

Next time we’ll walk you through the circus that was the Brad Marchand TV commercial shoot and we’ll interview the Director, Neoscape’s Rodrigo Lopez.

Pure Hockey TV Commercials Part II

By Jeff Copetas, VP of Marketing & E-Commerce

OK, so when we last left you, we expanded our marketing budget, got some ideas down on paper for some TV spots and went ahead and secured David Clarkson of the New Jersey Devils and Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins to appear in our spots. Let’s explore what happened next……

In May & June we began sharpening our ideas for the content of the spots. This involved securing a company to handle the production and creative for the spots. I didn’t have to look far – I have known some of the guys at Neoscape for many years and I had a good sense that they understood and could replicate the visions we had. Based in Boston, Neoscape is a creative agency and houses artists, filmmakers, designers and consultants – and I play hockey with a few of them, so I know there’s a bunch of hockey nuts there. We did speak to a couple of other agencies as well, but it was clear pretty early who should be handing the production of the spots.

So we met in person with Neoscape and started exchanging ideas for the Clarkson spot, which we assumed would be done first, simply because Marchand was in the midst of a deep playoff run and we could easily communicate with David Clarkson at the time, whose Devils hadn’t qualified for the playoffs. We set the production date for roughly September 12-13 and got down to finalizing the script. I originally submitted two scripts to the guys at Neoscape – the prescription drug commercial (mentioned in our previous post) and also another one involving a Pure Hockey job fair, which ended up being the basis for what we ended up doing.

The ideas presented to Neoscape were simple – I wanted a gag with hockey gloves and typing. Originally I submitted a script where Clarkson was typing at a computer with hockey gloves on. I also wanted him jumping over something, much like a player goes over the boards in a hockey game. I also wanted something with helmets, so I originally submitted a script which had Clarkson fitting a customer with a helmet, but putting it on backwards.

As you can see in the final version, the gloves and going “over the boards” made it into the final shots. The helmet piece wasn’t going to work with the Clarkson spot, but ended up being a cornerstone for the Marchand spot, which we’ll get to later.

Neoscape took my initial ideas and really turned it into a cohesive story. They came up with the gag of Clarkson cutting boxes with a skate, which I thought was really funny (and took a LONG time to set up) and they took the glove idea and used it at a register instead of a computer. Working with them was just so easy and effortless. They brought a 7 person crew down to the Fairfield, NJ for the Clarkson spot, which was shot during training camp on September 12th – a quiet Tuesday in the store, which worked out well for us. The entire thing ended up taking an entire day – we started setting up at 8:30am and left at 6:30pm.

Clarkson himself couldn’t have been a nicer guy. He was totally up for doing a bunch of goofy stuff and pulled off the acting thing really well. Off camera, we had a lot of fun talking with him about the NHL, gear, sticks and just about everything else. He brought down his Devils game jersey for us to look at and also gave the store an autographed Easton RS stick, which now hangs above the register there. David is involved in his own charity  (Clarky’s Kids) and made it clear to us that he really was impressed with the store and wanted to do more with us down the line. He was very generous with his time as well. Very cool. Amusing note – one of the first things he said was “I don’t think I’ve been in a hockey store since I was 15.”

That’s all for part two. Tune in next time as I get to some detail around how we picked the other actors and we’ll briefly interview both of the lead actors as well.

Pure Hockey TV Commercials Part I

By Jeff Copetas, VP of Marketing & E-Commerce

I can tell you without hesitation that when my boss, our CEO, walked into my office one day last March and expanded our marketing budget for 2011, I didn’t push back or ask for more. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, man! With the assignment of spending X additional dollars floating in my mind, I dreamed about all the possibilities and grand ideas that I could muster. Obviously I thought about all the possibilities with social media, our website, our stores, etc. And then, of course, I thought about TV.

I’ve seen a few hockey retailer’s TV ads. They are well done. They convey the basic message and core value of their businesses. They made sure that production was clearly professional. But they are not my style and more importantly, they are not OUR style.

It would make sense to interject here with a little bit about my own personality. I am an absolute sucker for a cheap laugh and I will take ’em any way I can get them. My favorite movies are “Airplane!” and “Dumb and Dumber.” See what I’m getting at? I mean, look at this monkey on my desk!

Give me something patently absurd or juvenile and I will be your friend for life. With that said, I set out to think of ways we could make people laugh. Here at the office we’ve always had a list of running video gags that we’d like to use for viral/YouTube videos, so those were playing in my mind, too, as I thought about the type of TV commercial spots I’d like to run. So I knew I didn’t want some boring spot that just shows our stores or dull videos of our skate walls. I don’t think those kind of ads were suited for this particular brand campaign. Advertising is all about creating something memorable and to get people talking about your brand. If we put a spot out there that tells you we have hundreds of different gloves and sticks, you wouldn’t remember it a week later. You need something memorable.

So I ran through a couple of completely odd and absurd scenarios in my head, One idea was a total rip-off of those horribly annoying prescription drug commercials, which I think was pretty darn funny. That one got to the script phase, but we ended up scrapping it for the ones you see on TV now.

In tandem with this (during March 2011) I had to start thinking about who we wanted in the ads. We weren’t going to shoot for the moon – the elite players command very high dollars. So we wanted to secure players who we felt best exemplified our personality – the hard-working, established NHL player who can score and still be nails. I collaborated with our store manager down in Fairfield, New Jersey and we came up with David Clarkson of the Devils – a fan favorite down there and a guy who can play.

Up here in Boston, we originally went for Milan Lucic, but he declined, saying he wanted to take the summer and really focus on hockey, working out and getting ready for the following season. Respectable. Our focus turned next to Brad Marchand, who wasn’t yet completely established, but was clearly an up-and-comer who could play the game with tenacity.

Lucky for us, both Clarkson and Marchand are represented by the same agency (Newport Sports) in Canada, so it wasn’t very difficult to secure both players and we were able to work through a single source to set up everything with both players.

So by March we were all set with David Clarkson and Brad Marchand. Tune in next time as we walk you through setting up the shoots, the complications of a Stanley Cup run and then actually meeting these guys and doing the TV shoot.