By Barry Janoff
April 2, 2014: NBC Sports Group and the NHL have started the countdown to the Stanley Cup playoffs with a campaign in which a trio of ne'er-do-wells steal the Stanley Cup and hold it for ransom.
Appropriately, the effort launched on April 1, aka April Fool's Day.
The effort, "CupNappers," is anchored by an extended five-minute spot in which three men, lead by actor/comedian Nick Kroll (The League, Kroll Show), swipe the trophy named after Lord Frederick Stanley, setting off a frenzy that inspires news reports on NBCUniversal-owned networks from such on-air personalities as David Gregory, Kayla Tausche, Jim Cramer, Carl Quintanilla, and Jeremy Roenick.
There is also a guest appearance by Mike Bolt and Phil Pritchard, the real-life "Keepers of the Cup."
Thirty-second versions of the spot in which the storyline plays out in segments will air on NBC, NBCSN, NHL Network and NBCUniversal cable channels. (See the full spot here.)
Support includes trailers in theaters nationwide, Internet and social media.
Creative was developed by NBC and the NHL in conjunction with ad agency The Brooklyn Brothers, NY. The 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs begin on April 16.
The storyline begins with Kroll and two friends — Charlie Sanders and Seth Morris — plotting to steal the Stanley Cup, and then actually committing the deed. They take it back to a seedy motel and contact the NHL with demands that, when satisfied, will lead to the return of the trophy.
TV news programs jump on the story.
"This is a major blow to hockey and hockey fans everywhere," says David Gregory. "Whoever took Lord Stanley's Cup is stealing not just a trophy but a dream — a dream of players and supporters around the world."
Responds business analyst Jim Cramer in his typically exuberant style, "That's ridiculous. You can't steal the Stanley Cup! Thirty-four pounds of steel is missing?! Commodity traders must be jumping out of windows right now!"
Kroll phones the NHL and says he will return the Cup if the league meets his demands, which include:
• Putting him on a practice squad with any team in the Western Conference except the Vancouver Canucks.
* Having poutine with Patrick Roy.
• A lock of Jaromir Jagr's hair.
• A VHS copy of The Mighty Ducks.
• A meet-and-greet with the Hanson Brothers (from Slap Shot).
One of Kroll's cronies has his own demand: $! million.
"That's ridiculous. You can't steal the Stanley Cup! Thirty-four pounds of steel is missing?! Commodity traders must be jumping out of windows right now!"
On Day 18 of the crime, a SWAT Team finds them hold up in a cheesy motel. They escape and try to return the Cup to a local ice rink. When cornered they seek to escape on a Zamboni, which has a top speed (but is rarely ever driven at) 15 MPH. That leads to their arrest and incarceration.
The spot ends with the text, "Who will really get their hands on the Stanley Cup?" (See the spot here.)
A promo touts the Cup broadcasts with the tag line, "Every Game. Every Night."
During April, May and June, NBC Sports Group said it would air upward of 105 playoff games and possibly more than 260 hours of programming across NBC, NBCSN, CNBC (in primetime), and NHL Network. In addition, beginning on April 17, and continuing for most mornings sthroughout the playoffs, NBCSN said it would air at 7 AM ET "cut-down versions of the previous night’s most exciting game of the night."
NBC and NBCSN will also provide exclusive coverage of the Stanley Cup Final. NBC will broadcast Game 1, Game 4 and Games 5-7 (if necessary), with NBCSN televising Games 2-3.
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