On Monday, June 5th, an average of 829,000 viewers tuned in across both broadcast and online platforms to Game 4 of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs to watch the Pittsburgh Penguins take on the Nashville Predators. That’s a lot of fans tuning in for a hockey game! As a marketer, this kind of event could be a goldmine for your brand, but advertising placements in them are often prohibitively expensive.

So if your brand happened to appear on the broadcast for free, you might consider that the marketer’s version of winning the lottery—which is just what happened to Listerine.

Following a 5-1 Nashville win in Game 3, a fight broke out between Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Nashville’s P.K. Subban, which resulted in Crosby telling Subban he had bad breath. For a fight at a hockey game, it was definitely one of the tamer insults you might hear! Nevertheless, news of it resonated with fans and viewers.

“I really don’t understand why he said that because I used Listerine before the game,” Subban told reporters following Sunday’s morning skate. “I thought my breath smelled great. You can’t be perfect, you know.” Subban continued, “There’s things I have to work on and making sure my breath smells good is one of them.”

As a not-so-subtle dig at Crosby, Subban was spotted carrying a bag with a couple of jumbo-sized bottles of mouthwash hours before the puck dropped at Game 4.

Numerous fans decided to take their turn at trolling Subban by bringing cardboard cutouts of Listerine bottles to Game 4. Suddenly, Listerine’s name was plastered all over the broadcast and dozens of high profile news outlets, social platforms, and discussion forums.

This certainly isn’t the first time brand awareness has exploded for free. At the 2014 Grammys, singer/songwriter Pharrell Williams wore a hat that looked very similar to the famous Arby’s logo. The internet couldn’t stop buzzing over the musician’s gigantic brown “mountain cap” from designer Vivienne Westwood—so much so that a fake Twitter account for the hat was created less than 30 minutes after Pharrell strutted down the carpet. Soon after, Arby’s took advantage of the situation and started a conversation with the artist:

Arby’s took advantage of the situation and made the best of it, earning themselves free publicity simply because they were paying attention to the right conversations. Will Listerine’s social media team be able to take advantage of this free press, or will their attempts get called off-sides? Platforms like Twitter and Facebook offer infinite ways for fans and critics to voice their thoughts and interact with brands, but it takes a deft hand to capitalize on those conversations—just ask United Airlines.

How light is your social media touch?

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