It will take more than a global pandemic to put Finland's hockey playoffs on ice.
Though barred from skating in front of cheering crowds, the 10 qualifying teams of the national Finnish Hockey League are competing for a championship anyway—via esports. Presented by Telia Esports Series and developed by TBWA\Helsinki, the tournament features representatives of each squad facing off one on one via EA NHL 20.
It's a timely gesture designed put smiles on the faces of rabid fans in the happiest nation on Earth, though the results won't officially go into the record books.
"The idea is more about offering entertainment and closure—even if it's unofficial—for the hockey community," agency creative director Laura Paikkari tells Muse.
"Enthusiastic hockey fans in Finland took it hard when the league was canceled," Paikkari says. "Many people on social media were talking about the possibility of finishing the season online, and it was a natural place for the Telia Esports to step in."
The virtual format adheres to IRL rules, regulations and schedules. Even the game commentators are the same.
"During these hard times it is important to continue to provide some sense of normalcy," says Telia commercial manager Niklas Segercrantz. "Life goes on, even though many things are a bit different due to the pandemic. This was something we could do to help."
Some actual Finnish pros, including Harri Pesonen, who once suited up for the New Jersey Devils, will be working the game controllers, along with celebrities, media figures and fans.
On Tuesday, two virtual-game telecasts drew about 20,000 viewers all told. On April 25, Finland's top broadcaster, MTV3, will air the final. Brand partners include phone giant One Plus, Finnish snack company Taffel and Norwegian frozen-pizza maker Grandiosa.
"We think that in the future, this should become a usual thing," Segercrantz says. "Now that it is becoming a mainstream form of entertainment, why not host esports versions of alongside traditional sports? This would be perfect for the NHL, NBA, NFL or MLB."
In the short-term, NBA headliners such as Kevin Durant, Derrick Jones have participated in an NBA 2K challenge aired by ESPN2. The league, which had its season interrupted, and perhaps ended, by the coronavirus crisis, plans to televise a game of H-O-R-S-E among its stars in isolation. (They'll shoot from courts or gyms in their respective homes.)
Advertising Agency: TBWA\Helsinki
Chief Creative Officer: Jyrki Poutanen
Executive Account Director: Anna Masalin
Creative Director: Laura Paikkari
Senior Creative: Jere Saulivaara
Planner: Mikko Santonen
Project Manager: Heidi Vilkman
Copywriter: Lasse Perälampi
Art Director: Juha Takalo
Junior Communication Specialist: Saana Sundberg
Film Editor: Henrik Storsjö
Campaign Results: Ellen Lindbom
Film Production Company: TBWA\Screen
Director: Iiro Hokkanen
Client: Telia Finland
Marketing Manager: Aija Rainio
Commercial Manager - Esports: Niklas Segercrantz
Social Media Coordinator: Heini Niemelä
Communications Manager: Katriina Puro
Client: Finnish Hockey League
Marketing Manager: Aija Saha
Marketing Manager: Petra Ahvenharju
Production: Assembly Organizing
Executive Producer: Juha Lahti
CEO: Lassi Nummi
Social Media Manager: Ville Nokkonen
Site Developer: Juho Nieminen