Executive VP of Marketing Details how NHL brand weathered lockout
Despite the efforts of a variety of organic, grassroots protest movements to make the NHL "pay" for the 2012 lockout, which consumed four months of the 2012-13 season, the NHL rebounded from the lockout with aplomb. Interest was up on-line, in the stands and on television sets across the continent this season, as hockey fans returned in droves and opened their wallets to consume the NHL product.
It's a fascinating case study. On Thursday during a presentation at the Ad Age Small Agency Conference and Award Show in Portland, NHL Executive Vice President of Marketing Brian Jennings presented a rare behind-the-scenes look at how the NHL weathered the storm that was the league's third lockout in a generation.
Kent Lewis of Anvil Media was in attendance, and detailed Jennings' presentation at length on his blog:
"[Jennings] opened with an interesting analogy of Nike shutting down and getting bad press, which is unimaginable, but that’s what happened with the NHL last year. The negotiations between owners and players came to a standstill on negotiation regarding compensation, pension, healthcare and Olympics participation. In Canada, the media compared the 2012 lockout with the BP Oil Spill. Jennings outlined the overall business and marketing strategy, starting with direct communications and contingency planning with the clubs/teams. The second audience was sponsors, partners and licensees, which was very complicated. The third and most important audience was the fans. A refreshing approach the NHL took was to take the blame and own the issue. The NHL hosted impromptu games around North America in small communities. Clubs hosted clinics and events, or anything not involving the players. The Penguins tapped former players (and the mascot) to participate in events. The NHL focused on positive, but honest, messaging about the lockout, players and negotiations. The key messaging piece the NHL put together was a 2 minute video, Hockey is Back, announcing the return of NHL in January. In the end, the communications and marketing strategy played out well, backed by the Blackhawks incredible season. The season played to 97.5% average capacity, record TV ratings and NBC saw the highest ratings in 14 years and the most watched hockey season in 19 years. On the digital side, mobile app downloads increased 20% and page views were up 13%."
Well that's pretty neat. Looks like NHL will have every incentive to shut the league down again for several months (or more) when the current collective bargaining agreement expires in 2022.