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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Free advice for the Preds marketing department

I was a marketing minor in college, so clearly, i am an expert to listen to in the area of marketing. With that in mind, here are a few ideas i have that i think could help the much improved effort already underway for the Nashville Predators.

List Game Dates/Times Everywhere
The presence around town of Predators billboards is vastly improved over the last several years. They look better and there are just more of them. Trouble is, they don't have one very key piece of information - when are the games? Through the summer the drive has been for season tickets, and that makes sense. But trying to sell seasons tickets through most of the year doesn't make as much sense. After all, people buying season tickets are probably already fans. That's no who you need to be reaching.
The main push needs to be for individual game sales from casual fans (or people who have never even seen a game). Those people buy tickets more impulsively. They want something to do this weekend. They just remembered a spouse/child's birthday and need to do something, etc. They can only do that if they know when the games will be. Everyone knows when Titans games are (Sunday is pretty easy to remember) but not everyone has (or thinks to look at) their pocket calendar of Preds games.

I've seen the Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs use this to great effect. Every month they would put a new billboard up listing games that month. It was very easy for fans driving down the highway to see it and think "oh, i could catch a game this weekend" or "hey, there's a game on my husband's birthday - i bet he'd like that". Last year the Preds had a billboard up pushing the Capitals game, which was good, but putting up a month of games lets people plan for more than just one option. (The widespread use of digital billboards around town also makes changing the game listings much easier/cheaper to do) (Here's an example of one done by Michigan St football)

Tell businesses why it makes sense to partner with the Preds - not "support" them.
I was very happy to hear David Freeman say last year, when he took over as lead owner of the Preds, that he was not asking for anyone's charity. He didn't want the Predators to be a charity case and didn't think or want to say that business "should" support the Predators as part of their civic duty. Unfortunately the Radio "ticket-thon" that 104.5 did last week did exactly that. Operating far outside their comfort zone, George Plaster and crew begged people to support the Predators and "buy tickets to 1 or two games" or "buy a 10 pack...whatever you can afford". While very well intentioned and very appreciated, the message sent to businesses was the wrong one.

For one brief moment though, someone did say the right thing: When interviewing someone from Vanderbilt Sports Medicine (the new official health care provider of the Predators), the question was asked "why sponsor the Preds". Among other things in his answer, the Vandy rep said (and i paraphrase) "because they are a great way to reach our target market. There is a lot of overlap between who they draw to games and the customers we want to reach". BINGO! That message needs to be being said VERY loud and VERY often.

Now, i trust (and hope) that David Freeman and crew, when going out to give presentations to businesses, are saying this and have all sorts of demographic data to back it up. Businesses buying tickets for Preds games just makes sense - from a business point of view. And we aren't talking about it-helps-keep-the-Preds-in-town-and-if-we-don't-Nashville-will-look-bad-and-top-talent-won't-want-to-move-to-Nashville-and-you'll-have-to-hire-lesser-people. That's not it. The connections are much more direct.

  1. Advertising with the Predators (in the arena, on TV, and on the radio) is a fantastic way to reach a passionate crowd of typically young, upper- and upper-middle-class people. The associate with teams is a proven way to build fantastic brand loyalty among people who have money to spend and are still building loyalties. There are more numbers out there to back all this up... if i was back in a marketing job i'd go on and on here...
  2. It's a great way to reward employees and build a good corporate environment. I know of multiple businesses that have used this to great success: Buy a pair of season tickets - good seats - to the Predators. Then give it away to top performers. Maybe its a contest for whoever is the top sales person that week gets the tickets. Maybe employees get the tickets for a month when they have been with the company for X number of years. Whatever it is, people go crazy for what they perceive to be a valuable commodity - regardless of the actual value. Example: Season tickets right next to the governor and his wife (section 112, around the 4th row) cost $156 per game. I know very few commission-based salespeople (which i work with) who will go crazy and bend over backwards for $150 spiff (only interested in the big bucks) - but tickets like this? Very prestigious and they will go nuts for them - working OT, etc. I've seen it happen more than once. And of course there are other seats on the suite level that include all you can eat food/drinks packages for about the same money.
Oh - and the Preds have meeting facilities in the arena - so you can get a great group rate on the game and have your quarterly strategy session in the arena (catered) for a great package deal. But so very few people know about these options.

Again, i trust that this conversation is taking place, but it is happening behind closed doors right now. It needs to be shouted from the mountain tops.

Make the 'value' packages very clear and well promoted (during poor economic times)
Did you know you can get 4 tickets in the all-you-can-eat zone for $220? That's 2.5hours of great family entertainment, all the hotdogs, burgers, nachos, peanuts, popcorn, water and soda you can handle for $55 each. Last year's family fun packs that let a family of 4 go for $100 and included a free hotdog and soda was a fabulous deal too. In hard economic times, you have to emphasize that the games aren't as expensive as people may think they are. And you'll have better family bonding time at a game than at a movie (you can actually, ya know, talk to each other).

Side note: Promote the website better. It's awesome.
Last plug i gotta make here is for the absolutely awesome website. Especially PredsTV. If you haven't checked out Training Camp Central, its excellent. Reports on all the players and daily write-ups with interviews with coaches and players, etc. There are write-ups and highlight shows posted quickly after every game, and resources for fans all over.

PredTV is by far the highlight though, with videos posted all summer long showing what the players did during the off-season (JP Dumont's kids are pretty cute), how prospect camp went, and more...

Every press conference the team does is available online as well:

Best way to stay caught up with what is on the website: add the following feeds to your feed reader (or to your MyYahoo or iGoogle page):
Predators News
New PredsTV Videos

Monday, September 22, 2008

Fantasy Hockey Time!

I'll try to do a big breakdown and talk smack later, but for now wanted to post a brief analysis of my fantasy hockey league for this year.
This is the sums/averages of all stats for each category.

Blue = Best in league
Red = Worst in league
Bold = Above the league average

Run down of the managers this year:
303 4 Life - Bradley S (co-worker and fellow Cell block 303er)
PredFans - Paul Nicholson (yours truly)
Barrys Bolts or Bust - George Scoville, aka stackiii (hockey blogger/forum guy)
Becker's Wreckers - Joel, aka Introverted One (friend/blogger)
Fantasy Hockey Guru - Kevin Hicks (co-worker & sports nut)
Ice Holes - Paul McCann (Preds PA annoucner & Hockeybuzz blogger)
Nolensville Knights - Dirk Hoag, aka The Forechecker (Kuklas Korner blogger)
Old School Blues - Gary Nicholson (my dad)
Pond Hockey Rulez - Michael Nick (co-worker)
Puckhounds - Joshua Frizzell (co-worker)
RebelMandos - Kevin Peters (random friend)
Tallahassee Warthogs - Andy B (fellow Cell Block 303er)
The Felder Flu - Brandon Felder (Hockeybuzz blogger)
The Knack - Ken Knack (co-worker)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Preds Fan Meet-Up

Predators Fans: Come one, come all!

Well, actually, let me be more specific...

There's a pretty nice community of people from blogs, Flickr, Twitter, etc around "Pred Nation". So, i'd like to see as many of us get together to actually meet the 3D versions of each other.
Where: Predators Training Camp - Centennial Sportsplex
When: Sat, Sept 20th 10:30am

We will meet in between the first and second training camp sessions (around 10:30am) at the tables in the front lobby of the Sportsplex building (near the front doors). I'll be wearing a light blue work shirt that says "Geek" on the front and carrying around a camera. If you can't find us, call 615-823-1734, that'll ring my cell. Or you can DM me on Twitter @pwnicholson.
Now for the roll call (and link love) of the people i'd really love to see there. I'm sure i'm going to leave a few people off the list, but if you want to show, please do! You don't have to be listed!
For full details on Predators Training Camp, check out "Training Camp Central"

See ya there!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Vegas on Preds

Vegas has spoken and have ranked the Predators the 18th most likely team to win the Stanley Cup this year out of the 30 team league. 30/1 odds.

Of course, the Red Wings are roughly 7.5 times more likely to win the Cup than the Preds, but the good news is that they are effectively picking us to make the playoffs (we're in a 3 way tie for 7-9th most-likely-to-win in the West) and again finish second in the division.

I find it very interesting that they have given the Preds better odds than Chicago and Tampa Bay, both of which did some major retooling in the offseason and i personally would have to handicap at least at the Predators level, especially Chicago. I'm also a little surprised to be put at parity with Calgary, which to me looked to have a strong off-season and looks loaded to at least make a lot of noise this season.

Probably the most surprising to me about this list is that the East is given much better odds overall (though of course no one approaches the Wings odds). 10 of the top 16 odds are given to teams from the East. I just really find it odd that they would give Carolina odds that good, or teams like Calgary odds that low. On a team-by-team basis nothing seems too far off, but most of the talk i hear is that the West is deeper and stronger than the East (though the gap is closing), but this chart doesn't appear to support that theory.

We shall see...

Team Odds
1 Detroit Red Wings 4/1
2 Pittsburgh Penguins 11/2
3 San Jose Sharks 10/1
4 Montreal Canadiens 10/1
5 Dallas Stars 12/1
6 Anaheim Ducks 12/1
7 New York Rangers 15/1
8 Ottawa Senators 15/1
9 Philadelphia Flyers 15/1
10 Washington Capitals 18/1
11 New Jersey Devils 20/1
12 Carolina Hurricanes 22/1
13 Minnesota Wild 22/1
14 Colorado Avalanche 25/1
15 Boston Bruins 30/1
16 Buffalo Sabres 30/1
17 Calgary Flames 30/1
18 Nashville Predators 30/1
19 Vancouver Canucks 30/1
20 Chicago Blackhawks 35/1
21 Toronto Maple Leafs 40/1
22 Tampa Bay Lightning 45/1
23 Edmonton Oilers 50/1
24 Florida Panthers 50/1
25 Atlanta Thrashers 60/1
26 St. Louis Blues 60/1
27 New York Islanders 75/1
28 Phoenix Coyotes 75/1
29 Columbus Blue Jackets 75/1
30 Los Angeles Kings 100/1

Monday, September 08, 2008

Preds May Need To Tank

I looks like everyone else is chiming in with what they think the Predators should do with the open roster spots, so i figured it was time for me to cast my vote.

The discussions center around whether the Preds should sign a big name free-agent (Sundin), mid-level veteran talent (Parrish), or just go with the prospects we have in our system (Hornqvist, Jones, etc).

Moy vote: I think the Preds should go with the young talent. Don't spend a dime more than you have to on the roster this year. Invest the money in the marketing, hype these youngsters and most importantly, pick a personality on a long contract to build the fans around (Dumont, Weber, or Erat seem logical).

Some are saying the team can't afford to take a year off - that from the financial and fan-base building point of view we can't afford to go a year without making the playoffs and being competitive. But i think history proves that wrong. The Preds best attended season was 2001, when the team was well below .500, and wouldn't see the playoffs for years to come. Likewise the Blackhawks and Capitals have proved that a well marketed, unbalanced team with just a few talented players can draw crowds and attention, win or lose.

As much as i am a Preds fan and want few things more than seeing Lord Stanley's cup hoisted at the Sommet Center, the one thing i might want more is the promise the the team will be here for my kids to enjoy in 10-15-20 years. What do we need to ensure that? A profitable team and butts in the seats.

News flash: Crowds don't follow wins. They follow stars, excitement, and only then, yes...playoffs and championships. Over and over again teams in the NBA and NHL have proved that stars and hype fill arenas and sell TV ads. Period. If those stars make it to the playoffs, so much the better.

So i think the Preds options are one of two things*: Either do another roster purge and sign Mats Sundin or trade for Evgeni Malkin, or stay low with the roster we have and do the best we can to hype the young talent - and don't worry about our record. Win where we can, but by the half-way point if we aren't in the playoff hunt - tank. Go for the draft spots and go for broke next year.

Balanced, above average players great for fantasy rosters and winning hockey games, but they don't sell tickets. We need hype, we need tickets, and we need them this year and next.

*Obviously i don't think the Preds are going to go with either of these routes exactly, and I'm not sure if i was Davids Freeman & Poile that i would have the guts to actually do either option - but if i was a high-priced consultant brought in to give my completly uneducated opinion, this is what i'd say.

To put this more clearly (thank you JC for helping me get to this point of clarity in my argument):
For this team right now, $1mil spent in advertising gets them a decent bump in attendance. $1mil spent on the salary gets them...? At best another point or two in the standings? This team isn't going to be significantly better and their playoff chances will not improve that much with ANY player they could sign (even with $10mil a year for Sundin). So don't bother. The team as it is right now will be competative and entertaining enough.

Take a "building year" on the ice to develop young talent that has been stuck in Milwalkee and Europe for too long, while pumping big dollars into marketing. Then next year, with your nice, shiny high draft pick thanks to a bad record, you'll have a marketable star (who cares if they are really game-changing, Stamkos is selling tickets in Tampa Bay and he's yet to step on the ice for them) at rookie-discount pricing who you can hype the snot out of.

The Preds have had teams in the past that were successful on the ice but didn't have any mega-stars that were well marketed. They went strong into the playoffs, then fizzled - and never drew huge crowds until the very end of the season and playoffs, which is something Nashville has always done. What they need is someone that a marketing effort can use to get people into the seats while football season is in full swing. Invest in marketing and hope for a great draft pick.

Oh - and i don't care if he's horrible - get Blake Geoffrion playing at the NHL level as soon as possible. Local boy makes good is a great story for the news.