Tag Archives: fans

NHL Skating on Thin Ice With Many Supporters Post Lockout

February 4, 2013

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A version of this article was written in mid-January and originally appeared in the February issue of PRWeek (subscription required)

On January 6, after 113 days, 625 missed regular-season games, and countless starts and stops, the National Hockey League ended its third lockout in 19 years.

After the last lockout, the NHL launched the “My NHL” campaign which portrayed hockey as a battle and its players as warriors. They also wrote thank you notes on the ice at every arena and increased their promotional giveaways. Marketers may point to the increased attendance and TV ratings that followed as evidence of this campaign’s success, but most people seem to think that had more to do with the very clear fundamental changes in how the league operated, including a salary cap, elimination of the two-line pass, shootouts, and a draft lottery.

Now, the league has to be wondering if fans will come back as quickly, if at all. After all, fans then were almost willing to accept the lockout if it meant the league would be healthier over the long-term. This time, fans view the situation as a greedy money grab by owners unwilling to reign in their spending. Nike’s new “Hockey is Ours” commercial even celebrates this “us vs. them” mentality by highlighting a defiant attitude among players and fans.

What the NHL faces isn’t simply a PR, marketing or image problem. This is a trust problem, with fans feeling betrayed more than once in less than a decade. Earning trust back won’t happen with commercials and thank you notes. It’s going to be about what the league does not what it says. Sure, the hardcore hockey fans will probably soon forgive, but the casual fan—the fan that’s been so responsible for the success of the league over the last ten years—isn’t going to be so ready to spend money on a league that seems to have so little regard for the people keeping it in business.

Here are five ways the NHL can start the process of repairing its damaged reputation:

  1. Start communicating with fans NOW MORE. Open up communication as soon as possible. Give fans details about the new agreement, what it means to their favorite teams, and how it makes the game better. At this point, over-communicate – not with marketing messages, but with contrite honesty.
  2. Create a space for fans to vent. The NHL should create an online space for fans to vent their feelings about the lockout, ask questions (which actually get answered) and offer ideas for improving the league. While some of the discussion will be rooted in frustration, the league is potentially opening up an opportunity to learn more about its core fan base and maybe even stumble on a good idea or two. Get the fans talking and keep them engaged, even if they’re hurt.
  3. Stop insulting fans and offer them stuff they actually care about. Thirty-percent-off merchandise and free parking for five games isn’t going to cut it. Make NHL Center Ice free for everyone. Offer free parking for the rest of the year. Offer free tickets to kids under the age of 13 – this is going to be your future fan base. Lower ticket prices across the board (e.g., if you lose half the season, make tickets half price, etc.).
  4. Increase transparency. Create content that pulls the veil back on league finances and operations. Now that the lockout is over, force teams to open their books. Hire someone to translate it into non-insider language to explain how the league is more viable now, and better yet, how this will ensure that yet another lockout isn’t going to happen again in ten years. The NHL already has a blueprint for how to do this – Brendan Shanahan’s video series explaining penalties and suspensions is a fantastic example of how to make complex things consumable to the average fan.
  5. Ramp up your community relations. All teams should have their players deliver the fans their tickets like the Penguins do. Hold open tryouts where fans can come and try out for the team like the Minnesota Wild have done. Go beyond sponsoring local teams and leagues and get involved with them, like the Nashville Predators did in the video below. Do all of this and more. Much, much more.
This was the second long lockout in less than ten years. Sure, some fans will come back as soon as that first puck is dropped, but to repair relationships with the vast majority of fans, the league is going to have to go beyond apologies, press conferences and tweets and show the fans that they care. It doesn’t matter what the league says, but what they do. If the league wants fans’ dollars (and loyalty) back, they’re going to have to first win back their fans’ trust.
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U.S. Navy Virtual Scavenger Hunt Charts Fan Interest

June 30, 2011

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Is your Facebook Insights Dashboard filled with peaks and valleys? Do the same people do all of the commenting and liking? Do you have a lot of likes, but very little comments? Does your organization have several sub-pages with little or no traffic? If you answered yes to any of the questions, then you may want to take a cue from the U.S. Navy and reality shows everywhere and consider a scavenger hunt. You heard me right – the simple game you may have played as a little kid or a more advanced version you did in hiding a present for your significant other can help you in social media as well.  The Navy found this out last month when they launched the first Navy Virtual Scavenger Hunt to help increase engagement among their Facebook fans and teach them about Maritime strategy at the same time.

Take a look at the case study they pulled together below detailing why they developed the scavenger hunt, how they did it, their results, and their lessons learned.

[slideshare id=8199879&doc=navyfacebookvirtualscavengerhuntsnapshot-110603133357-phpapp02]

According to LT Lesley Lykins, the Navy’s Director of Emerging Media Integration, they are constantly looking for new and creative ways to educate their fans and more simply understand what is the Navy does for them every day. The Scavenger Hunt helped them do that. It allowed them to mobilize their substantial Facebook fan base (334,000 people)and get them to visit some of the other Navy command Facebook pages and learn more about what they do too. LT Lykins said the activity was definitely a worthwhile investment and has increased the level of engagement they’ve had with their fans on the Navy Facebook page. Even more importantly though was the impact it had on the Navy commands’ efforts – one Navy Public Affairs Officer shared, “ Our fan numbers spiked during the scavenger hunt and have continued to grow since then. Additionally, the interactions have slightly increased as our fan base has continued to grow.”

The Scavenger Hunt was so successful that not only have many of their fans have asked that they do it again, but some of the other Navy commands who didn’t participate the first time around are itching to get involved the next time too. To satisfy this demand, the Navy is continuing to develop other new creative ideas to showcase more commands in the future,  although they aren’t ready to release any of those details yet.

While the Scavenger Hunt was fun and creative way to engage their fans, it doesn’t compare to the day-after-day-after-day engagement they are able to conduct with their fans. The Navy uses Facebook and other social media channels every day to reach out and touch the Sailors, veterans, family members, people interested in joining the Navy, Navy advocates and so forth. This is what has allowed them to build much closer ties.  You can now feel just as close to the Navy and our Sailors whether you live in a land-locked state or a major fleet concentration area, and that’s something that just wasn’t possible before.

So, what’s the number one piece of advice for other government agencies interested in doing a Scavenger Hunt for their Facebook page?  According to LT Lykins, it’s to “think outside the box – we do not have to remain stuck telling our stories and sharing our messages the way it has been for the last 30 years. Our team says that if you aren’t willing to share the content on your own personal social media properties then it isn’t good enough to be shared on the official page. You also need to make sure you still maintain strong ties with other communicators in your field because a lot of this is planned and coordinated off of social media and through email and phone calls. Maintaining those relationships and communicating often helps build a stronger campaign vice simply tagging other social media properties. Finally, remember as an organization there should be a point to all the fun – we have an obligation to communicate what they Navy’s doing on citizens’ behalf, so once we get their attention we hope to make it worth everyone’s time.” (emphasis mine)

[FULL DISCLOSURE – Booz Allen is supporting the U.S. Navy Chief of Information (CHINFO), and Tracy Johnson provides direct support to the Emerging Media Office]

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