Tyler Seguin's Game 2 performance for the Boston Bruins was the stuff of sports fables: The 19-year-old rookie who blossoms into a star with a 4-point game to lead his team to a vital playoff victory in the Eastern Conference Finals.
But sports stopped being about fables a long time ago. It's a business. And along with thousands of Boston hockey fans, Seguin made sports apparel company Under Armour very, very happy with his breakout Game 2.
Last summer, Under Armour built two commercials around Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Seguin, who was drafted second overall by the Boston Bruins in the 2010 Entry Draft. A 30-second ad with Nash launched last Christmas, along with a 60-second spot with both players. But they also built a 15-second spot that spotlighted Seguin.
"We were hanging onto that, assuming he was going to play in the playoffs," said Corey Friesen, Director of Marketing for Under Armour in Canada, with a laugh. "Then he didn't for the first couple of rounds. We were just sitting on it."
There were cries from the Bruins faithful to get Seguin in the lineup, especially to help a moribund power play; meanwhile, Under Armour was watching their only option for a relevant playoff ad campaign lie dormant.
The company had nine endorsing players in the playoffs, with others like Brad Richards of the Dallas Stars and Nash out of the postseason. When Henrik Zetterberg and the Detroit Red Wings were eliminated, Friesen said that left Seguin as the only Under Armour client left in the tournament.
"Our eggs were in the Seguin basket. And the basket wasn't on the ice yet," he said.
Did they consider sending Under Armour guy Ray Lewis of the Ravens over to Bruins coach Claude Julien's office to talk some sense into him?
"The thought crossed our mind," Friesen joked, "but the good thing is that his performance has ensured he'll be playing."
Seguin finally saw his first Stanley Cup Playoff minutes in Game 1, scoring a picturesque goal against Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Dwayne Roloson in an otherwise humbling loss for the Bruins. There was some mystery as to whether he'd play in Game 2, but Patrice Bergeron's recovery from a concussion kept him out of the lineup and gave Seguin another opportunity.
So Under Armour finally aired its Tyler Seguin spot on TSN during Game 2 … a game that saw Seguin tie a rookie record with four points in the second period, leading the Bruins to a series-tying victory. Suddenly, the company didn't just have a pertinent player in its commercials; it had a 19-year-old rookie that had become the story of the Eastern Conference Finals.
But as much as they'd like to capitalize on that surge in popularity, Friesen said Under Armour wasn't going to interfere with Seguin's playoff focus.
"We're very sensitive to that. We're not going to interfere with that voodoo, with that routine. But at the same time, as they say, the sun is shining and you gotta make hay," he said, adding that the commercial is currently only playing in Canada.
The harvest, one imagines, will be in the offseason and into next season.
"He's a great Under Armour athlete for us. He's got a great training regimen, great physique, looks the part of an Under Armour athlete," Friesen said. "Does this change what we'll do with him in the future? We love that the momentum is going so strong with him. We always had plans to keep leveraging him, and will do that.
"Sometimes it works out. Right now, it's really working out."