“Hockey? In South Florida?” I can’t begin to convey how often I get some variation of that as a response when I talk about what I like to do for fun (by do, I very much mean attending rather than playing since I don’t have an athletic bone in my body). A staggering percentage of new people I speak to are even completely unaware that there is a professional hockey team 20 minutes away from them. While this is decidedly a sign of the team’s lack of marketing success over the past 25 years, it can also be seen as a huge potential for growth… if the local audience is reached.
But before the marketing team begins creating content, there must be a clear plan as far as integrated marketing communications. Part of this is clearly determining what the IMC objectives are for the organization, past the obvious “grow the game” soundbites that are often used about non-traditional hockey markets. Let’s take a look at some types of common IMC objectives and how they can apply to potential future marketing plans for the Panthers and teams like it.
1. Expanding Brand Awareness – This one is fairly obvious. I spoke to someone about the Florida Panthers hockey team recently and they were certain I was speaking about a non-existent collegiate team for the local university. To begin with, people in the area need to be clearly made aware of the professional hockey team they live so close to.
2. Build relationships with consumers – This can be looked at from a couple of different perspectives, but my own recency bias compels me to focus on relationships with season ticket holders. Just this last week, I saw several Panthers STHs on Twitter express that they had not heard from their account reps in months. There is definite room for improvement there.
3. Increase market share – In this case, we’re speaking about the South Florida sports team landscape. The Panthers need to ask themselves two questions; What are the advantages that hockey has over other sports, and how can we leverage them to attract other fans of other sports.
4. Change perceptions and beliefs – The perceptions about hockey shared by the general public in South Florida can boil down to; “that northern sport,” “that Canadian sport,” and “unpopular so it must not be worth exploring.” Marketing efforts need to be centered around challenging those beliefs.
5. Encourage repeat purchases – Once new people do make it in the door, the organization needs to ask itself how to make the experience valuable enough to turn one-time attendees into regular attendees.
By clearly delineating the objectives behind marketing efforts, the team can move past a generic “come to the game, it’ll be fun” message and integrate all their marketing communications so that they all work together with common intention. Ideally, the region can then begin to move from, “hockey? Here?” to “South Florida hockey hub.”