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Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Marketing Solution for the NHL

I came across a great article yesturday written American Hockey Fan blogger Ritch. He raised an excellent point about promoting hockey by really allowing hockey to promote itself. Letting the game shine through along with showcasing its history. He also posted one of the NHL ads (not part of the "Cup Changes Everything" ad campaign) from the NHL's "Live Every Shift" Campaign. I tracked it down on youtube, it's titled "One Play" :

Now this is an ad! It got virtually 100% positive responses from the users who commented on it on Youtube. It allowed viewers to get a players-eye view of the game since most of the shots were at ice level, connected the NHL to its past in a subtle way by including historical NHL highlights and even touched on the great youth tradition of pond hockey during the winter. It was the game at its purest, completely unadultured by over the top backround music, gimmicky special effects, and players or celebrities spewing adages about how tough and intense the sport is.

When you market something you have to consider the strengths and weaknesses of what you're trying to market. In the NHL's case, it's biggest asset is the game itself! Though critics have said a lot of things about the game, in an effort to question the place of hockey in America's sporting conscience, no one has ever dared to call the game boring. Sports experts, observers and fans may have issues with how the game translates on television, but they all agree that as a live-action event, it is unparalleled. The level of speed, skill and physicality is unlike any other sport. Finding ways to let that shine through and give TV viewers some sense of the experience, is a great way to go about marketing the game.

Unfortunately for the NHL, its players generally lack personality. The culture of hockey, at least publicly, tends to frown upon any form of self-promotion, flattery or anything that could be construed even remotley as egotistical. So as players in other sports wage daily battles in the media through trash talking, crudely cheoreographed touchdown dances and other art forms, hockey players generally stick to their rehearsed (or at least, commonly repeated) lines in an effort to always say the right thing, and stay out of controversy. While one of the pros of this is that they are generally great guys to meet in person and get to know, the con is that many TV viewers find them boring and the media (in the US at least) generally ignores them. If they can't get their juicy scoop from hockey, they'll go somewhere else. As a result, they are left to live their lives in relative anonymity. Another reason that contributes to their lack of personality, is the fact that most of these players grew up in small towns where the amount of attention is a fraction of what they now get. These factors cause many players to become overwhelmed when they are forced to be the center of attention (ie. be in a commercial), and be likeable. Many of them don't really seem to know how to deal with it. All of this makes it difficult for hockey players to have a strong presence the way basketball/football/baseball players do in the media. If you doubt this, just watch the new "the Cup Changes Everything" ad spots with Alfredsson and Getzlaf. They look forced and contrived. Luongo was the only one who was able to do a half decent job.

The solution to this problem, is to market the players just being themselves. Nowhere is that showcased better than when they're out on the ice playing the game they love. This would give the NHL a very unique position of being the only sport where the greatness of the game, not the force of the athletes personalities is what drives the business.

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1 comment:

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