by George Dyke
We are now discovering that the commitment Citroën Canada made to align itself with Jean Béliveau in the 1970’s timeframe is turning out to be nothing short of astounding.
In the past we reported about the Citroën DS21 that Béliveau was given that was painted with the Montreal Canadiens team jersey colours and had Béliveau’s number 4 painted on the rear roof pillars. (Read the full article “Le Beliveau DS” in our Citroënvie document archives.) And upon Jean Beliveau’s passing on December 2, 2014, we wrote a tribute to him (https://citroenvie.com/jean-beliveau-remembered/) and I conversed with Rex Murphy on CBC Radio’s national program Cross Country Checkup about interviewing Jean Béliveau for the article we wrote about his experiences with the DS21.
The CBC radio program was heard by Denis Arcand of the newspaper La Presse in Montreal who ran the story of the DS21 as part of their memorial tribute to Mr Béliveau on Wednesday Dec. 10, the day of his funeral. See: https://blogues.lapresse.ca/monvolant/auto/2014/12/09/une-ds-21-pour-un-dieu-bleu-blanc-rouge/
And Richard Bonfond in California, upon reading our Blog tribute, remembered that he had a photograph stashed away showing Jean Béliveau being handed the keys to his car at Citroën in Montreal. Then two weeks ago, Citroënvie member Micheal Gillespie unearthed at photo he took in 1969 of a Henri Charpon DS21 Concorde Coupe that was being driven into Citroën’s showroom at 4006 Sainte-Catherine St. West in Montreal, a location we were able to pinpoint because of the photograph and another photo we knew was the showroom but until this point could not determine the exact spot.
Subsequently Citroënvie member Steve Loria presented us with an oversize booklet about Jean Béliveau his brother got when attending a hockey game in the early 1970’s at the old Montreal Forum just east and on the other side of Sainte-Catherine St. Published by National Sports Productions Limited, it was sponsored by Citroën and, other than a 2 pages by the publisher prompting it’s other NHL team booklets, only Citroën ads appeared in it’s 52 pages!
Of particular interest to us in that on page 40 there appears a photo of Jean Béliveau being handed the a set of keys, presumably for a new Citroën, and we think most likely to the promotional DS21 he was given. We have seen only a cropped portion of that photo to date. The full photo shows a wall mural on the right, the very same wall mural seen in the Montreal Citroën showroom photo we had on file. That in itself was verification that there was strong connection to Béliveau by Citroën.
The fact that Citroën sponsored this booklet further goes to show the impact they were trying to make in Quebec.
Citroen had a long established strategy of showcasing their automobiles by locating them in showrooms on a high profile streets. Initially in Paris on the Champs-Elysées from the 1920’s to this day and in the late 1950’s in the USA on Madison Avenue in New York. It certainly appears that Citroën Canada tried to take the same path in Montreal by putting their showroom on Sainte-Catherine St. If the happened to be a stone’s throw from the hockey rink where the Montreal Canadiens played, so much the better!
By sinking their marketing dollars into the publication, whatever it, and the custom painted DS Béliveau was given to drive cost, were an enticing way to tie them to Jean Béliveau and they probably thought of the Béliveau booklet as the perfect wrapping to it all. We particularly like the subtle mention at the very bottom of Citroën ad on page 51, right under the DS, that there are 44 major service centers throughout Quebec. (And that line is in English only!)
If you look on pages 26 and 27 you’ll see that National Sports Productions published 8 other Hockey booklets (the referred to them as albums) dedicated to individual NHL teams. Only the Jean Béliveau book is dedicated to an individual player. And look who the sponsors were; heavyweights like Molsons, Pepsi-cola, Benson & Hedges, Ford, Imperial Oil and William Nielson. Do you think they paid big-time for the rights to sponsor the publications? We can’t help but wonder what big-league cost Citroën had to pay to secure sponsorship of the Jean Béliveau book. Or did they have a clandestine three martini advertising lunch one day with the folks at National Sports Productions and suggest that if they’d do a booklet on the star Montreal Canadiens captain, that they were already clinking glasses with a committed sponsor. Given that there is a Béliveau book and not one on Bobby Orr, Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull or any of the other NHL hockey greats in that same era, we like to think the luncheon meeting was the most likely scenario.
In any event we are pleased to offer, in our member’s archives section (in the Citroënvie online articles folder), the entire 52 page booklet in pdf form. Enjoy and re-live the golden era era when Citroën Canada was on it’s grand and final stage branding itself to Quebecers though its association with the Montreal Canadiens and Jean Béliveau.