Just some food-for-thought for you on Monday afternoon. I had a short, albeit interesting discussion in my marketing class this morning.
It's the second week of the class (or maybe the third, time isn't really relevant right now), and as you might expect we're doing a whole lot of generic topics. We discussed what we thought marketing was, and what it's all about. We discussed the best and worst marketed products/leagues/etc in sports, and as you might have expected, the NHL was named among the worst.
Of course, being that I am in the southeast US most people didn't know too much about the NHL, or care about it for that matter. Not to say that there aren't hockey fans here, but you know what I mean. There was one point in the discussion I thought was interesting; someone mentioned one of the problem's with NHL marketing is that 'there are no stars'. You know, no Mannings or LeBrons who put the sport on their back and run with it.
I wasn't about to debate the merits of hockey, since it's always going to be a losing battle especially in the home of NASCAR, but it sparked some serious internal conversation. As a serious hockey enthusiast, I couldn't understand what they were talking about. 'No stars? Is this a joke? We've got kids like Ovechkin and Malkin. Then there's still those outstanding vets like Thornton, Iginla, Brodeur, Selanne and Sakic. Of course, there's also the second coming; Sid the Kid. He's the biggest thing to hit hockey since... well, since Gretzky! Yes, we've got stars! '
Then I came to my senses.
Of course the general populous doesn't think there are any star players in hockey, because no company in America would dare take a chance on having a hockey player preach about their product. Everyone knows about LeBron and the Manning brothers. Take my mom, for example. She doesn't know what team any of those guys play for, save for Eli Manning because he plays in our hometown. Nonetheless, she still knows who they are, what sport they play, and that they must be important because they're pitching Nike shoes and Gatorade bottles. She's not going to go out and buy their products or will want to see them play, but she recognizes that these sports are in the consciousness of many Americans.
When you take things out of the perspective of the average female 'baby boomer' there's much more of an impact. Other people will almost certainly be more influenced than she is, kids especially. I know I loved those McDonald's commercials from about 15 years ago with Larry Bird and Magic. You know they would play h.o.r.s.e. and call ridiculous shots like, "off the ceiling, off Ronald McDonald, off the house next door and in." My memory is a little hazy, so that's probably not entirely accurate, but I think you know the commercials that I'm talking about.
My point is, if a generation of kids (and adults for that matter) grow up not seeing any hockey on their TV sets, how can you possibly expect hockey to thrive in the future? Even if it's as little marketing as seeing a 30-second cut of Sidney Crosby, it still gets into the back of someone's mind. Heck, it might even be a good commercial that you don't even need to know anything about hockey to like, such as this Crosby commercial made by Gatorade, but not even shown in the States (as far as I know). Almost everyone can relate to pickup sports, and even if someone don't know who Crosby is, this ad would certainly get them wondering.
It's time to go beyond the 'My NHL' commercials and get some serious commercial backing. It might just be a pipe dream, but isn't there any company out there that the NHL can
beg convince to pay for some air time? The last time I checked, NHL arenas aren't completely devoid of advertisements.