Bully for the Bruins: The Bizarre Center-Ice Ad Explained

Bully Hill Vineyards ad at center ice

If, like me, you’ve jumped the Bruins bandwagon for their playoff run, you’ve probably found yourself asking one simple, persistent question: Just what the hell is Bully Hill Vineyards?

Indeed, the most visible ad in the TD Garden isn’t for Budweiser or Miller Lite. It’s for a winery from upstate New York’s Finger Lakes region. Right there on the boards at center ice, in giant block red letters, all it says is BULLY HILL VINEYARDS. No logo, no fancy styling, no explanation for why on earth a vineyard with a funny name is advertising at a Bruins game of all places. Honestly, it looks like they just picked a block font and designed the thing in three minutes. But whenever there’s a face-off at center-ice — whenever the puck passes center-ice, in fact — you can’t miss it.

Well, I called Bully Hill Vineyards and their marketing manager Sean King told me that the ad’s randomness is all part of the plan. “It sparks curiosity, you go online, you check it out,” he said. “It’s a way to develop a brand that doesn’t have a whole lot of exposure in the state of Massachusetts.”

As for why the ad looks like it was made by a five-year-old with a word processor, King said, “It’s bold, it’s big, it’s clear.” When the puck sweeps quickly past center ice, Bully Hill wants to be sure that people can read their sign.

King said that Bully Hill, which peddles about 40 varieties of wine, often looks for unconventional advertising angles. Shunning print and radio, they’ve run campaigns in the past with NASCAR, the Buffalo Sabres, and the New York Islanders (King said the winery’s owner is a big hockey fan — apparently so). They’re in the second year of a three year advertising contract with the Bruins, he said.

It seems like a strange strategy, considering that most hockey viewers are male, and, as King conceded, most wine buyers are female. But maybe the Bruins magic has rubbed off on Bully Hill: In the last year, sales of the vineyard’s wine are up 30 percent in the Boston area, according to King. He added that although Bully Hill has been in the Boston market for six or seven years, sales only started to spike once the winery partnered with the Bruins. Maybe there are more tough guy puck-head oenophiles out there than I’d imagine, King suggested. Maybe so. But I think all Boston hockey fans (bandwagon or hardcore) would be happy to pop open a bottle of Bully Hill, so long as we’re toasting the Stanley Cup champion Bruins.