The Chicago Black Hawks are on the verge of a Stanley Cup but will advertisers “commit to the Indian?”

June 3, 2010


Here come the Hawks! But for how long?

Last Sunday, the media columnist for the Chicago Tribune, Phil Rosenthal wrote a story on marketing potential for the surging Chicago Black Hawks. At the time of his writing, the Black Hawks were about to begin the finals against the Philadelphia Flyers. They are the odds on favorite to win the Stanley Cup.

For his story, Rosenthal sought my point of view. He wanted to know if I thought the Chicago Black Hawks were capable of drawing interest from advertisers and if so, how so. We had a long discussion and I was later flattered to have several of my opinions quoted in his subsequent article.

First things first. The Chicago Black Hawks are a terrific story for our city. Period. Especially given the bad to worse problems facing our other so-called professional sports teams. The Hawks are also a good story for the NHL given the team is part of the “original six” hockey franchises. And then there’s the residual excitement from the USA/Canada Gold Medal game at the Olympics, in which numerous Black Hawks played, on both sides.

However, I told Rosenthal that even if the Hawks win Lord Stanley’s Cup, come July, our town, like much of America, wouldn’t really give two shits. Hockey was, is and always will be the fourth sport in Chicago and in most of the country. Exciting as hockey is, and athletic as the players are, the sport just doesn’t fire us up. Not long term. Not really. This isn’t just my opinion. It’s the way it is. (You think Detroit is hockey crazy? If the Lions won a Super Bowl the pandemonium would be ten fold.)

Okay, so what about these Hawks? Will advertisers care? This was the fun part of my conversation with Rosenthal. Under new management, the Hawks brand is exploding. This team is young, exciting and athletic. Wearing (in my opinion) the greatest jersey in pro sports, there is a lot to like and to work with. In addition, the team itself is sporting a new slogan, which is apt and pretty awesome: “One Goal.” Thank you, Ogilvy Chicago.

But, for me, it’s no longer about the McDonald’s commercial or the Wheaties Box. That stuff is old-fashioned. And while the winning Black Hawks will get the winner’s share of it (though paltry compared to America’s more popular athletes), the keys to the kingdom are in social media, augmented reality and online gaming.

In other words, What’s the digital strategy? I was thrilled Rosenthal captured my opinions on this because, frankly, I know I’m right. These young hawks are undoubtedly all over social networks. As are countless zillions of potential young fans, male and female. How can the team leverage that? And how can advertisers play there as well? Figure that out and be the first NHL team to do it. That would be my vision for the Chicago Black Hawks. Even if the team does not win the Stanley Cup, God forbid, I think a rocking digital strategy might be the biggest prize of all.

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10 Responses to “The Chicago Black Hawks are on the verge of a Stanley Cup but will advertisers “commit to the Indian?””

  1. I think hockey’s biggest hurdle has been that it doesn’t play well on tv. It is arguably the most exciting indoor sport to watch live at the arena, throughout the game. Basketball doesn’t get thrilling until the fourth quarter.

    I think the TV viewership will increase, due to HD big screen TVs that make the puck more visible and bring you into the action more.

    The NBA is doing well, mainly because they’ve done a very good job of marketing some extremely impressive stars. Unfortunately, I think lots of folks, and advertisers, perceive hockey a bit “geeky” and lacking glamour. Not sure what the answer is for that.

    • SRP said

      Mark-

      When you say hockey is perceived as “geeky” isn’t that code for white? Perhaps the biggest hurdle facing hockey is unlike baseball, football and hoops for the most part ethnic populations don’t care about it at all.

      • No I don’t think Geeky is a code for White.

        I think a cumbersome helmet, a baggy uniform, and a long stick would make anyone look geeky and unglamorous.

        Can you imagine hockey players in full uniform being portrayed in an ad as sex symbols or male status symbols? If you take off the helmet and the baggy shirt, sure maybe. Otherwise, no.

        Football, basketball, baseball players all have much more fashionable and “hottie” perceptions going for them.

        Also, Golf and Nascar examples of two sports that do wonderfully without the benefit of bigtime minority appeal.

  2. You may not love me for this, Steffan, but you got me with a hockey article…

    Hockey is a huge part of Chicago history, being an original six team. It’s fan base is short because the games weren’t televised until recently. I think TV viewership has increased the fan followers in the two years I’ve lived in Chicago. Maybe you have to be a hockey fan to see it, but hockey is a big deal in Chicago- year round, not just through June- people will care in July if they win.

    Being from Detroit, aka “Hockey Town,” I have to say, hockey does fire us up. Have you ever been to a Chicago Blackhawks viewing, or attended a game? The excitement is incredible! Chicago is known for cheering and standing throughout the US National Anthem- I think that’s a pretty good example of firing up a crowd. And as far as your Detroit comment- Detroit is hockey crazy. The Lions have a huge following, so I’m sure if they won pandemonium would be ten fold, because they are one of the worst teams in the NFL. The Red Wings are another original six NHL team, and have great history for the sport. When the Wings won the cup back in 1997 the town went nuts. Red & White was everywhere, the parade was a huge deal, and the excitement didn’t stop- it was still strong when the next season began in the fall. This was the first win after 42 years, so it was a big deal, but the fans were proud of the team the entire 42 years waiting. Chicago is in the same boat now, having not won since 1961. They’ve waited 49 years for this, so the true Chicago Blackhawks will still care in July.

    On another note…. I agree that many traditional sports promotions and advertisements are old fashioned, and don’t work anymore. Social media is a big deal, as interaction is a direct way to your customers. So, what’s Chicago Blackhawks digital strategy? They are fully active on facebook, and many people I know interact regularly with them on that social network. They are also active on twitter. From following them I’ve seen many contests, games, and ways for fans to interact on a very personal level. They already are leveraging the many fans, and potential fans, on social networks. Many other NHL teams are doing this as well, including my Detroit Red Wings. I follow multiple NHL teams on Twitter. Some are more active than others, and few host contests, games, etc. for greater interaction, but those that do seem to be doing a great job with it. I think they’ve already beat you to the punch.

    • SRP said

      Love the deep comments, Sara Jean. Clearly, you’re a lady who knows her sports. Beautiful too. There is a God.
      Seriously,I know many pro players are on social networks but I’m not sure teams have begun to capitalize on what can be done there.

      • I do love my hockey.🙂

        I see more teams than pro sport players on Twitter and Facebook. @NHLBlackhawks and @DetroitRedWings both do lots on LinkedIn, and connect to their Facebook. They both have contests and events they promote through both, and to interact with fans. I know some other teams use both because I follow @NHL, and see posts they retweet or team twitter names they mention, and when paying attention to them during the playoffs.

        There is always room for improvement, so have they capitalized the opportunity? Probably not 100%, but they seem to be doing a great job with it, and growing interaction.

        I suggest following both, and watching on Facebook for awhile and see what you think.

  3. jim schmidt said

    Not invented here. LIke soccer, it will always suffer from being an import. Half the people watching the Hawks right now probably don’t know the rules of hockey.

  4. Hockey is fourth for sports in Chicago!! Sacrilege! What are the other three – Football, Baseball and ??

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