Macro brewer Molson Coors has come under fire since it launched a new beer commercial last week that appeared to encourage skiers and snowboarders to venture beyond the boundaries of a ski resort in search of adventure. “Coors Light asks, 'What will you brave when the mountains turn blue?'” a voiceover in the ad says. “Will you brave going out of bounds?”
The ad, which premiered online and aired on Canadian television, is part of a broader campaign from the beer giant called Brave the Cold. It shows a group of three skiers and snowboarders on a snowy mountain, charging headlong past an out-of-bounds sign, through the trees, to a waiting helicopter.
“To be honest, that is just shocking to me. I’m almost speechless,” says Mike Danks, team leader for North Shore Rescue in British Columbia, Canada. “I cannot believe they are pushing people to go out of bounds, to think that it’s cool. It works against everything our education is trying to accomplish.”
Perplexed viewers and the rescue community took to social media and the comments sections of news websites to voice their disapproval. “#molsoncoors a #donation to search and rescue is in order for encouraging risky behaviour in #bravethecold. Shame on you!” one woman posted to Twitter. "It's so easy to dare others to be irresponsible when you don't have to risk your life to save theirs when they do," another posted to Facebook. Powder Magazine ran a scathing op-ed. Molson Coors Canada pulled the ad less than 24 hours after it was posted.
Danks says the ad is particularly offensive to family members of people who went out of bounds and died, like the 40-year-old man from B.C. who was killed in late January when he fell into the Montizambert drainage while snowboarding in the backcountry on Cypress Mountain. The ad “empowers people to go out and possibly meet their maker, if you will, like the guy did on Cypress,” Danks says.
According to Molson Coors Canada Public Relations Manager Greg Vallentin, the ad campaign was only meant to “highlight the fact that any moment can be an opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and find adventure.”
“We have the utmost respect for our drinkers, and the thousands of search and rescue professionals across Canada who risk their lives daily and would never want to make light of a situation that could, or has, negatively impacted someone, or their friends and families,” Vallentin wrote in an email to Outside. Vallentin and other representatives at Coors did not reply to requests for comment.
In addition to pulling the ad, Coors will also make a donation to the British Columbia Search and Rescue Association for training, support, and public education on outdoor safety, according to Vallentin. He didn’t specify how much or when.
The ad was put together by Vancouver-based creative agency Rethink Canada and appears to be targeting millennials. Despite the fracas, it may have helped raise Coors’ brand awareness, says Mary Charleson, a marketing instructor at Capilano University in BC. “Get people talking about it. Stir a bit of controversy. The media takes the bait,” she says. “They don’t have to go out and buy your traditional TV spots and print ads. They’re trying to play into that under-29 [years old] group that is on their devices and will share stuff.”