The NHL: Good Example of how to kill a Brand

I used to be a major hockey fan but lost interest years ago when self-indulgent players moved to the highest bidder rather than showing loyalty to their team. Gone were the days where Toronto Maple Leaf players bled Leaf blue and Montreal Canadians players made their fans proud of their team and players remained with the team for many years.

Today hockey is a business and frankly most players are not in it for the sport but for the money. Everything about sports today including hockey is about money and I blame the introduction of sports agents (show me the money!) for most of the problems with sports and I predict that they will kill the “goose that laid the golden egg” in years to come.

Fans can’t afford to go to hockey games anymore and the duplicity and ignorance at the people who run hockey is simply breathtaking.

So let me take off my hockey fan hat and talk about marketing and sponsorship something I do know about.

Clearly the NHL lockout is going to result in long-term damage from ruptured relationships with sponsors and fans. They are killing their brand and the consequences will be far reaching this time.

Since this is the NHL’s second lockout in seven years, and the potential loss of the entire season for a second time is now a possibility given the labour negotiations, there is a danger that their customers may  turn away and never come back.

As David Shoalts from the Globe points out “One of the bigger problems the NHL has will be with  its sponsors as a lot of them remember the last lockout [2004-05] and if they go through another year like that, sponsors won’t be as forgiving,” .“If there’s another year without hockey, they may ask, ‘Why am I a sponsor?’”

David Carter, the executive director of the University of Southern California’s Sports Business Institute, states when it comes to the real damage.“[Sponsors] are about using the backdrop of sports to sell products – and controversies, which include a sport going dark,  makes them crazy. They have other avenues to reach vertical audiences and you can bet they are determining how best to retrench.

Will the sponsors come back? Don’t bet on it. Marketers have many ways to reach their customers and they don’t need hockey – a sport which is losing its luster and position in the market place.

The NHL has been trying to become a mainstream sport with the U.S. public for decades, wooing the casual fan with varying degrees of success. . Carter thinks the NHL is playing with fire and might get severely burned.

By cancelling the season both hard-core and casual fans will revisit their interest and future spending on hockey. The more disenfranchised fans become the longer it will take for the NHL to rebuild its fan bases. And this may be a very steep hill to climb.

It takes years to for sports leagues, teams and franchises to build relationships with their fans and sponsors. The NHL is taking a big risk with the second major cancellation of the season in recent years and don’t count on them ever recovering from their decision to lock out the players.


Come join us for our next social marketing workshops


Social Marketing Planning: Implementing an Effective Campaign

DATE: November 14, 2012

TIME: 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

LOCATION: RA Centre, Outaouais Room, 2451 Riverside Drive, Ottawa, ON  K1H 7X7



Social Marketing Strategies and Behaviour Change

DATE: February 06, 2013

TIME: 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Location: Delta Barrington Halifax



It’s Time to Become More Marketing-Oriented

Published in Association Magazine

Jim Mintz, Managing Partner, Center of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing

A number of years ago, I was asked to make a presentation to the Ottawa Chapter of the Canadian Society of Association Executives (CSAE) on the topic of marketing for not-for-profits with an emphasis on associations. My contact at CSAE felt that marketing should be a major focus of associations but was under the impression that is was rarely applied to any significant degree.

Read Full Article

English: It’s Time to Become More Marketing-Oriented

French: Le temps est venu de penser marketing



Bye bye, Miss American Pie

Just got back from vacation and spent a fair bit of time listening and watching the US news. I have always been a tremendous admirer of the USA. I love their entrepreneurship and as a marketer have always loved the  marketing that comes out of the USA.  So it with great sadness that I see a great nation losing some of its luster for reasons (i.e. the debt ceiling) that are baffling.

Why does a country that produces the greatest business persons, entrepreneurs, scientists, entertainers’ athletes etc. produce such mediocre politicians?

While listening to the woes of the USA over the past few weeks it made me think about one of my favourite songs.

In the autumn of 1971 Don McLean’s American Pie entered our collective consciousness, and many years later remains one of the most discussed popular music ever produced. A cultural event at the peak of its popularity in 1972, it reached the top of the Billboard 100 charts in a matter of weeks, selling more than 3 million copies; and at eight and a half minutes long, this was no mean feat. This was no ordinary song. What set American Pie apart had a lot to do with not totally understanding what the song was about, provoking endless debates over its epic cast of characters.  But however open to interpretation the lyrics may have been, the song’s emotional resonance was unmistakable: McLean was clearly relating a defining moment in the American experience—something had been lost, and most Americas at the time knew it. Opening with the death of singer Buddy Holly and ending near the tragic concert at Altamont Motor Speedway, Americans were able to frame the span of years the song is covering—1959 to 1970—as the “10 years that the USA had  been on their own.” It is across this decade that the American cultural landscape changed radically, passing from the relative optimism and conformity of the 1950s and early 1960s to the rejection of these values by the various political and social movements of the mid and late 1960s.

Coming as it did near the end of this turbulent era, American Pie seemed to be speaking to the precarious position the USA found itself  in, as the grand social experiments of the 1960s began collapsing under the weight of their own unrealized utopian dreams, while the quieter, hopeful world receded into memory. And as 1970 came to a close and the world this generation had envisioned no longer seemed viable, a sense of disillusion and loss fell over the USA; Americans weren’t the people they once were. Source 

Sound familiar? Again America is going through a major transformation.

I used to think America would solve its problems, after all else failed. Now I’m not so sure. The political class is looking more dysfunctional than ever. You can’t help but be depressed by the game of debt-ceiling chicken being played in Washington.

“The only thing that unites the Democrats and the Republicans in Washington today is their mutual desire to suppress the truth. Nobody wants to come clean about how deep the fiscal hole really is. None of the players trying to negotiate a deal has anything to say about entitlement programs such as social security, Medicare or Medicaid. Together, these account for more than 40 per cent of all federal spending. All sides are silent on what Robert Bixby, executive director of the non-partisan watchdog group Concord Coalition, calls the underlying structural deficit. Even the toughest version of the deals on the table will shave less than one-half of 1 per cent from the entitlement spending that’s mandated over the next 10 years”. Source

What is really troubling is the impact that the Tea Party has on the country’s politics. For the record I am a strong proponent of people having a voice in politics but there is always a danger when you let a “squeaky wheel” overpower all other opinions.

Very few sensible people support spending money you don’t have; this is true in running a government as well as running a family budget or a business. But anyone who seriously believes that the USA will be able to significantly reduce their debts and deficits without generating more revenue is “dreaming in Technicolor.”

For example almost half of the U.S. federal budget today is accounted for by Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. If nothing changes, these three programs will consume more than 100 per cent of the U.S. budget in 25 years’ time. PIMCO bond king Bill Gross argues the U.S. situation is actually much worse, when one includes the unfunded liabilities of Social Security ($8 trillion), Medicare ($22.8 trillion) and Medicaid ($35.8 trillion). Silicon Valley venture capitalist Mary Meeker calculated the balance sheet for the U.S. if it was a company, and estimated that USA Inc. presently has a negative net worth of $35 to $40 trillion.

This is clearly unsustainable and is why there must and will be major cuts to social programs in the U.S. in conjunction with significant tax increases. Source

Winston Churchill once quipped that “the United States invariably does the right thing, after having exhausted every other alternative.”

I wish my American friends well as they are going through a rough patch and hope sanity and common sense will prevail among their politicians during this very difficult time.