Wondering Out Loud

The NHL goes where others fear to tread

@goaliegirl tweeted about the NHL’s use of Twitter and I felt the urge to comment.

As a huge fan of hockey (pro, college, high school & youth) I am simply giddy that the NHL gets social media and is using Twitter to generate fan interest. Unlike the NFL, and even some college conferences, the NHL is embracing social media tactics and the benefits they can bring. Seems an odd thing on the surface, but look beneath and you’ll see the logic.

Then NFL and NHL have one thing in common: both are professional sports leagues. Other than that they are worlds apart in popularity, pay scale, TV revenue and just about any other metric you can throw at a spreadsheet. For those who don’t know the “H” in NHL stands for Hockey.

I grew up, and still live, in Minnesota and hockey is woven into the fabric of my life. I have two boys who’ve been playing for years and two girls just starting out. My youngest is only 19 months so she won’t be playing for a while, but we’ll have her on the frozen pond before the end of winter. Even though I have an irrational emotional attachment to the game, I’m pragmatic enough to realize the hockey talk outside of the snow belt is not a normal part of the conversation. Apparently the NHL knows that as well.

The NHL is the CBS News of professional leagues, constantly languishing at the back of the pack, and anything they’ve tried hasn’t changed that. Outdoor games are interesting, but after a couple non-fans loose interest.  When Carolina was rolling toward a the Stanley Cup a couple of years back, they had trouble selling out the building (Not much of a natural fan base in the Southeast).

In contrast, the NFL is the number one revenue generating professional sports league in the country. It’s annual television contracts are worth billions and the Super Bowl always ranks near the top of the highest rated shows. It gets more press than it deserves: ESPN spent months covering the Will-Favre-sign-with-the-Vikings-or-won’t-he saga. And it dominates television sports every Sunday and Monday from September through January.

In short, the NFL is no. 1 and happy to move slowly in an effort to protect that ranking. The NHL, running a distant 3rd, has nothing to lose and risks very little by jumping on the social media bandwagon, provided they do it properly.

 Fan Tweetups first took place earlier this year during the Stanley Cup playoffs and were a great success. But the playoffs run through June, so the weather warmed – and casual fans turned away – the league found success using Twitter to maintain interest. Replaying that same strategy as the 2009-2010 season is set to open this week is a natural follow up and one that I’m sure will be repeated throughout the season.

If necessity is the mother of invention, the NHL is trying to prove desperation is the mother of adoption.


September 30, 2009 - Posted by | Communications, Marketing, Social Media | , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Hi Mark,

    I saw you on LinkedIn and had to read the NHL post since I am a big fan and they are a client of ours here at ForeSee Results. I too have a couple of boys playing, thanks for the post. Maybe the NHL is reacting to their fan base when joining social media?

    Best regards-Patrick

    Comment by Patrick Sirota | November 4, 2009 | Reply

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