NHL Revealed: A Season Like No Other
The NHL’s 2013-2014 season is definitely unique. After a lockout shortened 48 game season in 2012-2013 the NHL came into their first full season in 2 years with a quite a busy schedule. 82 Games per team, 6 outdoor games, 1 month break for the Winter Olympics and then the crown jewel of hockey – The Stanley Cup playoffs.
That’s a quite a comeback they’re staging. It’s no surprise that the NHL choose to talk about this comeback as part of the inaugural SXSports programming at this year’s SXSW. Here are some notes and quotes from the session:
Featuring: Chicago Blackhawks President & CEO John McDonough, NHL Senior VP Events & Entertainment Dean Matsuzaki, NHL Executive VP of Marketing Brian Jennings and MillerCoors Director of Sports & Entertainment Marketing Adam Dettman.
- Going into the 2013-2014 season the NHL felt it owed something to their marketing partners and fans. They made reclaiming and instilling confidence to their fans and partners a priority of the season. The Stadium Series was a big part of building that confidence. They wanted to give the fans something special and give their partners unique opportunities.
- The NHL considers the Outdoor Games to be brand building events. It’s not about the financials first; it’s about the experience. While the Winter Classic and Heritage Classic are about celebrating the nostalgia of the game and uniting hockey fans. The Stadium Series is about celebrating the uniqueness of each market.
- When the NHL started the Winter Classic in 2008 they were unsure they would even be able to sellout. The result was a then NHL record attendance of 71,217. However they weren’t sure this would continue to work until the 2009 Winter Classic in Chicago. That 2nd Winter Classic gave the NHL their highest TV ratings in 33 years. With that the NHL felt they had cemented the Winter Classic as a yearly event. And the NHL now owns New Year’s Day and considers the Winter Classic to be an event that unites all hockey fans each year. Turning the sport from a local market, tribal focus to a national player.
- “The Winter Classic changed the DNA of the Blackhawks.” – John McDonough. The 2009 Winter Classic in Chicago is credited by McDonough as the event that re-energized the Chicago hockey market. While he went on to say that the event Chicago wants to host each year is the Stanley Cup playoffs but that from the Blackhawks perspective they want to be invited to the outdoor games every year. Saying that “They are a treat for our fans and put the Blackhawks on the national stage.”
- On the Olympics: “Being involved in the Olympics is good for our business” – Brian Jennings.
- On Technology: Long form content is an opportunity for the @NHL to tell stories about their players that the games and sports coverage can not. This long form content in the form of “NHL Revealed: A Season Like No Other”, “NHL 24/7” and “NHL 36” is just the beginning of how the NHL is looking to expand the story beyond just the game itself.
- Jennings says that younger audiences are “changing the cadence and velocity” of content consumption. And their participation in social media and digital platforms is fueling how the NHL covers their events and players. The NHL wants to raise the production levels of their broadcasts and sees technology, including wearable tech, as a way to accomplish that.
- Using wearable tech to show alternate camera angles or display real-time statistics about player health and performance aren’t that far off. Much like Nascar is monitoring a car’s performance during a race and delivering that content to fans, the NHL can do the same.
- McDonough said “The least informed consumer is the one in the arena. We need to fix that.” The in arena experience is lagging far behind what fans can access when watching the sport at home or online. He went on to mention that there will likely come a day that every fan will be able to access every camera angle, hear what’s being said on the bench and the ice.
Since the lost season of 2004-2005 the NHL has had great success re-activating their fan base. Their attention to detail, clear objectives, focus on the fan experience and embracing of technology has definitely contributed to the resurgence of hockey in the American sports scene.