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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