Hockey is not like football or baseball, most of the fans either played hockey or were around it while growing up. Since the lock-out the NHL has focused on adding to their fan base. They have changed the penalty rules, added the shootout and a host of other funky things to draw in new fans. However, it appears the NHL is finally getting it. The key to getting hockey fans is not to increase scoring through adding more penalties or by creating skill competitions to decide games (cough shootouts suck cough). The best way to create lasting fans is to introduce them to the awesome atmosphere that is the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Hockey is perhaps the fastest, most physical, most passionate game out there. Playing against the same team in a series, where it is win or go home only amplifies that. The playoffs allow an avenue for narratives to be told and to be played out. New fans want to follow stories. This is how they learn what teams they want to follow, who the payers are and the history of the game. Not to mention that in the beginning, when it is hard for new fans to follow the in-game action closely, the narratives will keep them watching and make them want to learn the game.
So the NHL and Comcast teamed up to make this big idea a reality in the 2012 playoffs. The newly minted, and Comcasted owned, NBCSports will be the base of the operation with games being played on NBC, CNBC and the NHL Network as well.
The campaign for the idea is as well done as the "History Will Be Made" campaign, in the sense that to the casual fan, this has drawing power. Hopefully it won't get played out as easily this time around.
--Tanzina Vega, New York TimesThe campaign is called “Because It’s The Cup.” One ad focuses on the Stanley Cup — the one symbol of hockey that is most familiar to many Americans — and another on how the games are a social event. The spot called “Where It’s Been” shows the Stanley Cup being kicked across a frozen canal, in the basement of a family home and in bed with someone. Another spot, called “Two Halftimes,” features people watching the game at home and in bars with a narrator giving viewers reasons to love the game, like “Because it’s good to get together over something cold,” and “Because in hockey there are two halftimes.”
Here is the first video of the campaign, that was broadcasted this week.
My view is that a successful campaign like this will bring more recognition to the sport while creating a larger fan base. My hopes is that if this fan base is reached, the NHL may stop trying to tinker with the game to bring more casual fans to the sport. Hell, maybe even they would get rid of the shootout.
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