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Carolina Hurricanes Put Local Emphasis on New Marketing Initiatives

The marketing team is rolling out initiatives that bring a fresh feel to the organization.

Adam White

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Carolina Hurricanes - hockey

New year, new slate, and for the Carolina Hurricanes, a new marketing slogan and campaign.

For the past three years, the club had used “Redvolution” as its rallying cry for the fan base and team, but with significant changes both on and off the ice in the past 8-10 months, the team’s marketing department, led by Mike Forman, decided to change things up heading into the 2018-2019 season.

This change led them to land on their new slogan, “Take Warning.”

Armed with a new third jersey and a new secondary logo, Forman felt that the time was right to put in place a campaign that would be felt across all of the club’s marketing efforts.

“The more you celebrate local, the more invested that fans will be in your brand.” – Mike Forman

“We were really happy with how that campaign (“Redvolution”) performed the last three years and how fans, players, and the media rallied behind it, but we didn’t make the playoffs during that time, so we wanted to come up with something that kind of reflected the new feel and new look for our organization and ‘Take Warning’ was born over the summer.”

SEE MORE: Arizona Coyotes Go Local As Season Begins

From graphics on social media to in-game videos, “Take warning” will be reflected and prominently featured. While an asset may not specifically have the “Take warning” verbiage on it, Forman noted that the creative will have a “tougher feel” to represent the vibe they are trying to create.

Outside of the new marketing campaign, the club is bringing back its “Homegrown Series” that celebrates local beer, music, food, art, and clothing. The six-game series is meant to “celebrate the community beyond hockey” and “showcase some of the best that North Carolina has to offer.” Now in its third year, Forman has credited the success of the initiative to an increasing desire from fans to support businesses and figures from their community.

“We think our fans and people in general are more invested in local more than anything. When you show that you have a vested interest in the success of not just your team but also the community you become a better representative of the state and what it has to offer. The more you celebrate local, the more invested that fans will be in your brand.”

A great example of this is the fact that when the team allowed the fans to crowd-source their new goal song for the year they selected “Raise Up” by Petey Pablo, a local artist who was born and raised in North Carolina.

Being in one of the most fertile college areas in the country, the team has also retooled their college program in recent years. Like others, they have a college program that offers discounted tickets to students, but they found that while somewhat effective, it wasn’t a true “partnership”.

Instead, the Hurricanes started a “College Colors” program that featured a co-branded hat from NC State, Duke, ECU, and UNC. Sharing a building and colors with NC State, Forman wanted a “fun way to break down the notion that just NC State was their school” because of their shared characteristics. The program was so successful that this year they will see it expanded from 4 schools to 9 schools, pulling from outside of the “The Triangle” that is Duke, NC State, and UNC.

SEE MORE: BreakingT: Breaking the Sports Memorabilia Mold

One of the Hurricanes most-unique new initiatives that they are rolling out this season is a player inspired apparel line. Teaming up with local artists, the department will work with select players this year to not only create apparel, but sell said apparel at games and in the team shop.

Something that Forman notes is an “another way to showcase player personalities other than just behind the scenes video content.”

In an era of cookie-cutter hats and teams shirts, the Hurricanes are taking the approach of successful moment-based apparel brands like BreakingT to provide new options for fans.

The idea is focused around instead of having players go out and do it on their own with a third party, the Hurricanes will provide creative, marketing, and distribution help, a move that is a win for the player and the brand, and when all is said and done, the future of the franchise.

“We can only do so much on the business side, but if there are ways that we can collaborate with the hockey side and help make the brand something that free agents want to be associated with, that is going to go a long way,” said Forman. “That starts with us being able to build their individual brands with something like this. Other teams aren’t making those same types of promises or guarantees, so maybe this can give us a leg up.”

Adam is the Founder and CEO of Front Office Sports. A University of Miami Alum, Adam has worked for opendorse, the Fiesta Bowl, and the University of Miami Athletic Department. He can be reached at adam@frntofficesport.com.

Marketing

How MGM Built Hype for ‘Creed 2’ With Athlete Screenings

The campaign seemingly paid off as “Creed 2” had the largest Thanksgiving weekend opening ever for a live-action title by grossing $55 million.

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Creed - Marketing - Sports

A look at one of the posters for “Creed 2.”

As President of Motion Picture Group (MGM) Jonathan Glickman puts it, the “Rocky” movies have separated themselves as “the preeminent sports movie franchise.” With a narrative throughout all eight films that chronicles the trials of underdog boxers, it seems natural that athletes have taken such a liking to it.

It also seems natural that after the critical and box-office success of 2015’s “Creed” starring Michael B. Jordan, and the original Rocky, Sylvester Stallone, professional and college teams from all over the world were incredibly excited to get an advance look at the sequel.

“Athletes from all walks of life can identify with that story of being doubted and having the odds against them,” Glickman said. “The tagline for the original ‘Rocky’ in 1976 was ‘His whole life was a million to one shot.’ Athletes ever since have been taking inspiration from the stories in the films to achieve athletic greatness in real life.

READ MORE: How to Break Into a Career as a Creative Storyteller 

For that reason, MGM started offering advance screenings of the film in the weeks leading up to its November release to teams that needed or wanted some extra motivation. A University Michigan alum himself, Glickman saw a great place to steer this campaign by giving the Wolverines football team a chance to see the movie prior to their game against Penn State. The idea worked, seemingly, as Michigan rolled to a 42-7 win.

“With U of M being my alma mater, I was very excited to offer the chance to screen the movie for coach Harbaugh and members of the team,” Glickman stated. “It was admittedly very cool to see the movie get them riled up and then to see them get that victory against Penn State.”

MGM’s communications team reached out to several other professional teams, athletes and colleges to work with them on screening programs, and had a few request information about the screening as well.  The list included Alabama and Georgia football, Michigan State, Virginia — coach Tony Bennett is a “Rocky” savant — and the Kansas men’s basketball team, which was also given a preview screening.

Perhaps most notably, the Philadelphia 76ers screened the movie early and integrated the movie into the reveal of their 2018-19 city edition jerseys, which pay homage to Philly’s history in the boxing world.

READ MORE: Traditional Pro Athletes Could Soon See More Opportunities With Gaming Companies

MGM also worked closely with the NBA to have as many as 13 teams engage with the film and even worked with Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwoodie to design custom-made shoes, a pair of which were worn against the Sixers on Thanksgiving weekend and were auctioned off to charity.

MGM collaborated with ESPN and the NBA to create a custom open with Michael B. Jordan for LeBron James’ return to Cleveland during Thanksgiving week, which was the most-viewed regular-season game in at least four years on ESPN.

The film was also used in other contexts by teams who were granted advance screenings.

In this vein, the Sacramento Kings, Minnesota Timberwolves and Milwaukee Bucks screened the movie for local at-risk youth in an effort to inspire them to overcome their own adversity. The Nets used the film to partner with their Brooklyn Boxing initiative to bring young boxers in to experience the film, and light middleweight champion Caleb Truax held a screening for youth programs in his native Minneapolis.

The campaign seemingly paid off as “Creed 2” had the largest Thanksgiving weekend opening ever for a live-action title by grossing $55 million. Expect MGM and other studios to continue with this style of campaign and tapping directly into athletes to market sports movies in the future.

“If pro athletes see a movie and tweet or post positively about it, then that’s a huge win for us,” added Glickman. “Not only does that get the message out about the film to the rather large followings that these teams and players have, but it gives us a direct line to what is ultimately our target audience, and it establishes a line of credibility when high-level athletes identify with stories like the one in ‘Creed 2.’”

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Why Major League Lacrosse Turned to Troika/Mission Group for a Visual Rebrand

Major League Lacrosse is about to have a new look and feel. During this upcoming process, Troika will be offering immense support and guidance.

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Troika - Major League Lacrosse - Sports

When Sandy Brown took the reigns as Major League Lacrosse commissioner, he knew a few changes needed to be made.

On the marketing front, the biggest alteration is yet to come with a complete visual rebrand for the league. This will include a new logo, a new website, and new league-branded apparel along with a new look for all marketing and communications materials for the league.

Naturally, this is a fairly large undertaking considering the league has been operating under the same logo and branding since its founding back in 1999. While some fans will always have an affinity for the original, it was time for a change. MLL Director of Marketing Carrie Gamper explained why.

“On the old logo, you can see the helmet, and the player is a little bit out of date and it doesn’t necessarily connect to how the game has grown leaps and bounds since the time of the league’s inception. We want to make sure that where we are and where we’re going is reflected in the new branding.”

READ MORE: The New Direction of Major League Lacrosse 

To get this project done, MLL has brought in Troika/Mission Group, a brand consultancy and creative agency. Troika’s previous sports-rebranding and promotion work has included projects with the NFL, ESPN, UFC, and the PGA. Notably, Troika created the PGA’s current slogan “Live Under Par,” which was included in a larger brand campaign that helped reenergize professional golf among younger fans. This campaign was a big selling point for MLL as it decided on Troika from four agencies.

“With that ‘Live Under Par’ campaign, they were able to remain true to the organization’s history while marrying it with this new, fresh, young, energized, digitally focused brand that they are,” Gamper said. “That also enabled them to engage younger fans and current golfers in new and exciting ways. Given who our core audience is and who our athletes are, that got us really excited to work with them.”

Troika will be working off data gathered in a Nielsen study among MLL fans that was completed over the course of the 2018 season. It was this same study that convinced MLL’s leadership that a rebrand was the right step in the first place. The Los Angeles-based agency seems ready for the challenge.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with Major League Lacrosse on the rebrand,” said Dan Pappalardo, president of Troika. “It is an opportunity to reinforce MLL’s legacy as the beacon of the lacrosse community, and position the league for the future.”

READ MORE: Major League Lacrosse is Turning to Digital Assets to Grow the Game

Troika/Mission Group and the league office, as well as MLL’s nine teams, will work hand in hand to establish new brand standards that will factor into all of the league’s new marketing materials. Fans can expect these new materials to start rolling out just prior to the 2019 MLL season, which begins on May 31.

“The support and guidance that Troika has been able to give us have been fantastic,” added Gamper. “The feedback and support we’ve gotten from our partners, sponsors, players, and owners have been overwhelmingly good. It’s an exciting thing to be a part of. We couldn’t be more excited to show everyone that new brand in 2019. It’ll look great and be a great beacon for the sport.”

Follow Major League Lacrosse on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to watch its visual rebrand unfold.

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NeuLion College’s New Tool Makes Social Marketing Easier

Collegiate social marketers hate having 40 different tabs open on their browsers, so NeuLion College crafted a solution.

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NeuLion College - Social Media - College Athletics

Many of the most recognizable brands in college sports distribute their communications through NeuLion College’s publishing tools. Customers use the Titan content management system to post to the team website, mobile app, and/or email lists.

Now, with SocialDirect, NeuLion College users can also post to team social media accounts right from within Titan.

NeuLion College’s Director of Product Innovation Mark Hodgkin believes that people already familiar with using Titan will pick up SocialDirect fairly quickly and easily.

“SocialDirect is embedded completely into the Titan content management system, which is what we use to control all our digital offerings, mobile apps, and ticketing/donor platforms,” Hodgkin said. “So, it’s kind of baked right in there as a standalone tool, but also embedded into a bunch of the most common workflows.

“If you’re creating an article or uploading a video or photo and you want to share it right away, hit save, and it takes you right into the SocialDirect flow using the link that the system creates — putting it right there for Bitly to shorten. You can also put a photo in there, sending it natively to the social platforms, while the program takes the headline and gives the photo a suggested caption.”

While social media has not traditionally been the biggest component of NeuLion’s products in the past, this seems like the logical next step for its CMS, as Hodgkin can attest to.

“It’s not our overall core-business focus of being a social aggregator,” he said. “We just tried to make Titan as robust a content distribution tool as possible. So, instead of having 40 different tabs open on your browser, digital managers and SIDs are now able to do it in one place.”

To say the least, this tool can save an athletic communications office precious time in getting all content to the proper channels very quickly.

SEE MORE: Overtime Is a Sports Network for the Next Generation 

“There’s less of the copy-and-pasting and uploading photos,” said Hodgkin. “The photos you’re going to use are already in the system. Once they’re in the system, you could use them for articles, ad spaces, or post to SocialDirect.”

One of the big differences between SocialDirect and other similar tools out there is that there is no limit on the amount of Twitter or Facebook pages that can be associated with an account. As athletic departments often have many different handles or pages for the different sports or staff members, this makes getting content where it needs to be even easier. Those accounts will still operate on a permissions basis, though, so anyone who does not have the login credentials for a specific account will not be able to publish.

Users can also submit posts in an approval queue, allowing for a scenario where, say, a student worker can create a post to be distributed on Twitter and Facebook, submit it as a draft, and an SID can review it and publish later.

SocialDirect also has Bitly integration, enabling the posting of custom URLs — if the school has one — very easy. The feature also works on NeuLion’s mobile app, making publishing on-the-go much easier.

Simply put, like much of what NeuLion College has launched, this is yet another product perfectly tailored for college sports communicators.

“We’ve added several people to our team recently who are either former SIDs or directors of marketing at colleges around the country,” Hodgkin said. “So, we wanted to have people on our team who have been in the seats of these schools and can relate to what they deal with beyond just a normal technology.”

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