First, let me say that I personally love the Redvolution bits so far. My favorite is Eddie Lack and Elias Lindholm set up at desks working the phones in full gear, but I also got a nice chuckle from the Noah Hanifin squeegee bit and also the Ron Hainsey hydration bit that was most recently released.
I think the short segments are well done, and I find them amusing. As far as entertainment value, I give the campaign high marks.
But here is the thing with marketing. Sometimes you can get caught up in doing cool stuff and lose track of the objective which is to help sell stuff. As noted above, I like the spots and informal polling on Twitter and talking to people suggests that most of the die-hard Hurricanes fans who live and breathe Canes hockey also like them.
But is that really the audience? And what is the goal? I have my Hurricanes tickets for the current season – whole books of them. And though I will notice and choose to agree or disagree with every single move Ron Francis and Bill Peters makes this season, I will buy my books of tickets again next year. There is a core fan base that fits in this same category. We are already going to PNC Arena and despite the teams struggles are paying for as much Canes hockey as we can fit in our budget and schedule.
The problem is that current math suggests that there are only enough of us to fill 6,000-8,000 seats each game which means when you add another couple thousand otherwise, we have 10,000 people watching Canes games in person. That is short by 6,000-8,000 on weekends and about 3,000-4,000 on weekdays against less desirable match ups.
And therein lies my issue. I think the current commercials are great entertainment value for the die-hard fans who are already in the inner circle. Would a casual fan watching on TV even get the taco reference in the Eddie Lack commercial or know who Lindholm or Lack are? Is a funny bit with Noah Hanifin going to inspire a casual fan to get off their couch and go buy a ticket? While the spots are amusing, I question if or how they are intended to drive a specific action which is to sell tickets to hockey games.
Admittedly, sales and marketing is an incredibly tough job for the Hurricanes staff right now. They team is now 6 years removed from any feel-good playoff memories and selling losing hockey (or any other sport) is hard. But as far as sports marketing goes, times like now are why teams have marketing department. In the fall of 2006 right after the Stanley Cup win, the team just needed cashiers and order takers, not so much sales and marketing.
So if a team cannot sell winning hockey (because it does not have that right now), what can it sell to put butts in seats? That is a complicated question with many answers, and surely there is precedent for what has worked and has not in this regard. It is not like the Hurricanes are the first franchise struggling in the win-loss column trying to fill, or at least 2/3 fill the arena.
Because of the frustrations of a 6-year playoff drought, we have reached the point where anything tied to the Hurricanes recent past has at least as much negative as positive. One-time heroes and marketing leaders Eric Staal and Cam Ward probably earn a 50/50 split at best right now in terms of invoking a positive feeling versus completely turning people off to same old/same old Canes losing hockey. Even Jeff Skinner who is a recently minted hero (only 2010) probably carries as much negative as positive with the casual fan base. And I would venture a bet that a significant portion of the positives are again the die-hard, ‘I stick by my guy,’ types who are going to games no matter what. Unless you can get Ron Francis and/or Rod Brind’Amour to come out of retirement, selling past players is tough right now because of the hot/cold mix with the cold being really cold right now.
The group at 1400 Edwards Mill Road can come up with better/deeper story lines, but I think the only thing you can sell right now is the future, the next wave of Hurricanes greatness and the untarnished players who must be a part of it. It is time to quickly start profiling in more detail the younger players and pitch them as leading the way to a new wave of Hurricanes greatness. Hanifin squeegeeing the boards is funny for me as a season ticket holder. But do the people who used to fill the other 8,000-10,000 seats at PNC Arena even know who he is and why he matters?
Give me 30 seconds of Brett Pesce talking about how much he wants to bring playoff hockey back to Raleigh while showing video of the penalty kill shift where he blocked 2 shots and was hobbling around and follow it with the game-tying goal and reaction against Philadelphia.
Give me 30 seconds showing Noah Hanifin in the weight room and working hard on shooting or skating drills before or after practice by himself and talking about how he is proud to be drafted so highly but that it is behind him and that he knows he needs to earn his next set of accolades as a good NHL defenseman.
Give me 50 seconds of Justin Faulk being interviewed and asked about his accomplishments as a 23-year old as an all-star, a US Olympian and a team captain and then finish with 10 seconds of him intensely looking into the camera noting that he has yet to play in an NHL playoff game and that it is his only goal right now.
By no means do I think that selling Canes hockey is easy right now, nor do I think there is a magical solution, but I think selling the future with a ‘something to believe in’ story is much stronger than a couple ha-ha’s that are mostly just inside jokes for the 8,000-10,000 who are already on board.