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

Who’s the dim wit? You be the judge

Robert Henson is a rookie linebacker for the Washington Redskins. Marcus Fitzgerald is the brother of Arizona Cardinal receiver Larry Fitzgerald. But football is not the only thing they have in common: both are also complete and utter dunces when it comes to Twitter.

After a recent game, fans voiced their disapproval of the Redskins’ play by launching into a chorous of boos. Henson took exception to the booing and told the fans so on Twitter:

“All you fake half hearted Skins fan can . . . I won’t go there, but I dislike you very strongly, don’t come to Fed Ex to boo dim wits!!”

For his part, Fitzgerald was annoyed with the meager 34 receiving yards his brother had and took it out on the quarterback Kurt Warner calling him an “old man.”

According to the article:

The NFL has already set a Twitter policy in place, prohibiting players, coaches, and team personnel from sending out tweets 90 minutes before a game until the conclusion of media interviews following a game.

So, if I read this right, the NFL allows players to be morons in Twitter outside of the window of time described above, but if you trip on your Twitter within the window you have to face the consequences. Whatever those are. 

Forgive me for saying, but the policy is worthless without the addition of proper training for players, coaches and everyone else covered by it.

The NFL – and other professional leagues – spend gobs of money instructing people how to interact with the media and how to be good community citizens. All professional leagues would do well to extend their training programs to include the proper use of Twitter and uses of other social networking sites.

September 24, 2009 Posted by | Public Relations, Social Media | , , , , , , | 1 Comment


%d bloggers like this: