Larry the Ad Man's Blog

I hope you learn from my small business marketing and advertising tips.

"Advertising is to trade what Steam is to machinery" Thomas Cook.
It was an honor to be nominated for 2011 Canadian Weblog Awards.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Critical mistakes by institutional business and government

My dad suggested I Blog on the subject of the blatant mistakes we think the NHL has made in marketing the game and connecting to its fans and after hearing our Mayor, Naheed Nenshi, speak I have added government to it as I think both big business and government have a real problem engaging with customers/citizens and more importantly acting on what they are telling them. Much of the rhetoric from Calgary Flames executives sounds the same as political campaigning. They have a large fan base in the city and need to "win over" the fans and media by using political speak. Some of the public are conditioned to expect these responses and see no action, while others recognise nothing will be done as promised and make some noise. Many of these people don`t vote, but they will buy hockey tickets. Not voting or getting engaged in politics is accepting the politicians as they are and for what they say and do.
I once had a conversation at a networking event with Mark Ruthenberg, owner of Mark told me he attended an event in 2004 at city hall which was a rally for the Calgary Flames during their playoff run and asked one of the alderman in attendance " How much did the Calgary Flames pay for the banner advertising on the side of city hall?". Puzzled the alderman answered, " nothing, it's free." and Mark replied, "I have a business and I would like that deal."
My initial thought, as might be yours, is that's a bit obtuse? But when you consider the sports teams in your city and how they are able to take advantage of local political figures attention, the media and other marketing venues that most businesses have to pay for the idea is a sound one. Why do they get special treatment? One answer might be simple civic pride. Another might be the fundraising they do within the community for minor sports. Both legitimate arguments, but the benefit they get on a daily basis far out ways the community good and civic pride they try to convey when they charge what they do for tickets, parking, concessions and merchandise, while they enjoy a sweetheart management deal on the publicly funded Saddledome along with upgrades from federal infrastructure monies.
From a simple business building perspective, the Flames and the NHL, along with our politicians are stuck in an old business model and must look to change with the new reality and engage with their customers or voters and listen, rather than preach to them. They must deliver on what they promise in a real life way. No longer can you brand a business and ride the coat tales of past success. The newspaper business is a real life case study of this new reality. Today's instant online media can make or break your business and you must respond in a timely fashion.

Here is what I see in my circles and listening to sports media, that the NHL and Calgary Flames must address or they will not capture my son's generation of fan, if they can.  

1. Take fighting out of the game. Look at what schools, psychologists and social experts are promoting and making a hot button topic. Bullying is bad. I stopped going to junior hockey games with my young son for that very reason. What was it teaching him? Bully someone to make a point, gain an edge, and win at all costs. AND the NHL's supplementary discipline is too lenient and promotes rough play and headshots.
2. Respect opponents, coaches, teammates and fans.  It goes hand in hand. If you can't respect each other, how do you expect your fans to be respectful in the stands? The more you charge, the more money a fan spends, the more they feel they can do what they want, when they want within the building and in bars. Talk the talk and walk the walk. Don't just kiss out butts when you have empty seats, respect us when the building is full.
3. Deliver an entertaining product to keep them coming back. I know season ticket holders who feel like they are not getting their money's worth at a regular season Calgary Flames game at the Saddledome. Take a look outside North American sports for innovative idea's to engage your fans. the current model is not working.
A similar thought I shared with Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi last week about city hall and engaging citizens. I said " Continue to walk the walk and encourage your council members, MLA's and any other political figure to do the same and we will continue to be engaged." Nothing jumps to apathy faster than a perception that politicians don't keep promises and are in it for their own gain.

Until next time, keep WALKIN THE WALK. I am Larry "The Ad Man".

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