Before the face paint, the wacky wigs and the costumes, the White Out started as a simple way to show Calgary Flames fans Winnipeg Jets pride.
In 1987, the Jets were in a playoff series against the Flames and the Winnipeg team needed an edge.
“Calgary had started to make a bit of a statement with their fans wearing red and the Jets’ marketing department clearly wanted to come up with something that would have a good solid response,” Rod Palson former creative director at Palmer Jarvis Communications, the advertising agency that held the Jets contract.
“When I got to the meeting, they had already started talking about the primary colours of the jersey at that time, which were red, white and blue and they were contemplating encouraging fans to wear any one of those colours,” Palson said.
“So after some thought I threw out the idea that why don’t we make it real simple and encourage people to wear white. Not only would it be unique and powerful, it would be very easy.”
Palson said white was easy to get behind, everyone would have a white shirt in their closet. But he didn’t expect the response.
“My initial response to seeing it for the first time was the incredible wow factor of all time,” he said. “To think that the hockey fan base out there could react so quickly, so positively to an idea in such a short turnaround time was just amazing. I was awestruck and shocked.”
Palson is proud of the campaign but says the team effort behind the roll out helped make the white out really stick with fans.
“The carryover factor is really quite incredible. I can’t think of another brand that could go into a hiatus for 18 years like the Jets did, like the white out did, to come back with such vengeance and to be so incredibly popular with people and provide people with such a great amount of fun,” he said.
Part of the fun, was also spinning a negative Winnipeg stereotype to our advantage.
“As soon as we said white, the words white out entered into our mindset and for sure the idea that we were now taking something perceived as a Winnipeg negative — the snow and the cold — but now the white out is something that’s incredibly positive for our community.”