Hockey will always be regarded as a game that gives fans the second chance of joy, even when the team is painfully eliminated. The fans just need to be willing to battle and to be truly committed to a relationship with the team. In addition, with the spirit of great love, the National Hockey League will be able to reach heights which are never thought possible. Therefore, the fans will be targeted through an integrated marketing plan campaigns that will comprise of traditional advertising, digital media, PR, and promotions as well. The campaign will aim at expanding the team. Although the campaign specifically targets the consumers, its purpose is to form part of a larger marketing plan which will cross international borders.
The National Hockey League’s (NHL) team had been witnessing reduced fan support, especially when the season opens. The owners locked out the players during the first half of the 2012-2013 hockey season. After the lockout ended in January 2013, many fans of NHL hockey were disappointed, and the NHL likely experienced reduced fan support (although this effect typically diminishes over time). In the lockout, various stakeholders, such as, team partners, sponsors, and suppliers require marketers who are more flexible to adjust to evolving stories. Moreover, they should be wise enough to understand when to communicate and when to control communication (Wong, 2013). Therefore, it is necessary for these loyalties to be balanced to rights owners and fans. However, doing nothing at all has been an option for most sports marketers.
During the beginning of the season, NHL faced major competition, but through history, it has managed to survive. The team has one of the most able players. In addition, it has various franchises across the United States. The league had been recording a steady increase in attendance and league-wide revenue (Strauss, 2008). Thus, the NHL is currently the only major professional hockey league in America and has employed some of the world’s best known athletes. Therefore, this marketing plan explores the team members’ challenges during the lockout and the manner they responded to the new opportunities. It also offers a set of future facing lockout learnings.
The league began in 1907 with Frank Calder as the president and the secretary of the NHL. Initially, there were only six NHL franchises. In the first season, the team saw the emergence of one of the best players who scored over 40 goals in less than 20 games. During the early times, the League faced stiff competition. In addition, throughout its history, NHL survived a great disease outbreak, the great depression, the emergence of the world wars, and the lockout. Currently, the team has thirty franchises across many countries. On the other hand, after the lockout of 2004-2005 season, it recorded a steady increase in attendance and league-wide revenue.
Product and Service Analysis
The NHL features one of the best hockey talents globally. The game that it provides is fast paced and creates an excitement in its fans when compared to any other sport. Some of the notable league’s players are Crosby and Ovechkin. One of the potential drawbacks of other sports, such as, National Basketball Association (NBA) and National Footbal League (NFL) is the fact that they are dominated by the American athletes. On the other hand, the most important selling point of the NHL is that there is a constant action. It implies that play can continue for a long time without a stoppage. In other words, players even change on the fly.
Coupled with speed, there exists a very fierce physical presence, which may result in a distinctive style that may not be obtained in any other sport. Hence, it fulfills the desires of consumers for an auctioned packed sporting.
Target Market Analysis
The league is regarded as the most dominant team and is continuing to expand and grow its brand by opening season games, especially in Europe. The NHL is regarded to be more of a niche sport in the U.S and is more popular in the Northeast. Moreover, hockey is a game that is typically watched in the western countries because individuals here grow up being exposed to the sport. On the other hand, much of this is attributed to the fact that hockey is a very expensive game to play with a limited inner city outreach. Consequently, a segment in which the league is making an effort is in the southeastern parts of the U.S that has shown a proof in high or low attendance rates.
The NHL targets approximately 20% of the American population, who have attained the age of 18 years and over and who are fans of the game. Moreover, most targeted fans are under the age of 45 years. In addition, the majority of the targeted NHL fans are well educated and are paid well compared to the non-hockey fans. Furthermore, the fans are most likely to arrive at sound business decisions compared to non-hockey fans. They are more than 50% likely to spend some good sums of money to purchase office items.
The league will provide live games in more than 30 NHL cities that host most of the regular season games. The fans will be guided to purchase the tickets through e-marketing, especially at the area office or at any retail locations permitted to carry out such transactions.
The NHL will also provide television online. Currently, it has contacts with NBC TV and Versus. On the other hand, the NHL has its own TV network that will allow fans to view games on a digital cable or via a satellite. Moreover, the games may be viewed through an online subscription or via an NHL.com.
NHL merchandise comprises of a licensing agreement with companies, such as Reebok, in order to create all the uniforms that are required by the players. Other teams, such as New Era, possess licensing agreements with the NHL (Lamb, Hair, & McDaniel, 2008). Consequently, another merchandise may be obtained through a web link and other websites, numerous retail locations, individual team stores as well as the flagship stores owned by the team in New York.
The main primary competitors include Leader in American Sport Market, that has recorded millions of viewers for the initial months of the season. It occurred at a time when the NHL only managed to record 15 of the 15 most viewed NFL games. The Major League Baseball (MLB) only trails the NFL just within the American sports market.
The secondary completion that the NHL experiences is Nascar, which is regarded as more of a niche sport just like the NHL. The sport has been recording a steady growth throughout the United States. In addition, it attracts most of the sports market within the southeastern parts of the United Sates where the NHL is making efforts to dominate.
A brief overview of the team’s financial analysis released recently was as follows. In spite of the economic recession, the NHL emerged to be the most watched game; hence becoming the most profitable during 2009. In addition, the aggregate revenue, comprising of the proceeds team owners receive from non-hockey events, increased to over $ 8.0 million compared with the previous seasons (Mullin, Hardy, & Sutton, 2014). There was also an increase in the gate collections that rose to over $ 400 million, whereas the sponsor revenue also increased to $ 3.0 million. However, the major revenue growth last year for the team was local TV shows that signed massive contracts, which improved, in overall, the local media revenues for the league. The league most recent financial reports released combined generated $ 60 million of the operating income.
One of the outstanding historic results includes the Stanley Cup playoffs that was regarded as the most watched on live TV broadcast since 2002. During the playoffs, there was a drastic rise in the number of unique monthly visitors to the league’s NHL.com. The visitis increased by over 30% to over 12 million (Lamb, Hair, & McDaniel, 2008). In addition, averaged reporting increased by approximately 1.5% from 2007 to 2008. Hockey for everyone was also regarded as a historic result. Moreover, there exists community outreach program, which offers support and unique programming on non-youth hockey groups across America. It shows commitments to provide young people from all walks of life a chance to play hockey (Gatehouse, 2012). The program has since produced thousands of young boys and girls interested in playing hockey. In addition, it embraces three disciplines meant for youth hockey. These comprise of ethnic and gender diversity, geographic location for special hockey, and hockey for the disabled.
The league has enlarged its fans through such means of social media as Twitter and Facebook. For instance, with regards to Twitter, the league would ask for relevant questions that relate to the game by using a Twitter account. The league also engaged its fans through incorporating Facebook (Irwin, Sutton, & McCarthy, 2008). For example, the NHL made a partnership with NBC to design a unique integration of live TV shows and social media. It enabled many fans to register by signing at Facebook.com.
The league has various strengths, including a unique brand and a very strong base that is quite passionate. In addition, the league shows parity created by the hard salary cap. The use of social media is also regarded as a strength, coupled with the popular event commonly known as the Winter Classic Event.
The league’s weaknesses can be attributed to the poor TV contract and the associated ratings. The other challenge that the NHL is facing is the struggle to dominate the market as well as a large international talent pool that has attracted very competitive athletes within the ethnocentric region.
There are potential opportunities that the league is facing. These comprise of the potential NBA and the NFL labor markets. In addition, the league may also reap tangible gains from the HDTV and the 3DTV. Another potential opportunity that the NHL has is the American untapped markets. In addition, the league may also benefit from the string currencies of the regions it operates, especially the Canadian dollar. Finally, there is an emergence of young and talented American athletes.
The threats that the league may face comprise of a strong rivalry from other sports leagues. These also include other hockey leagues, the presence of the economic recession as well as misconceptions concerning the game.
Strategy and Tactics
The major problem that the league is currently facing is poor television contracts that greatly affect the distribution strategy. The current contract with NBC broadcasted the Winter Classics and other games, such as the Stanley Cup Finals. However, under the contract both NBC and the league shared the revenues. It has been highly recommended that reform changes should be made in the current distribution strategy (Coombs & Batchelor, 2013). Thus, based on the distribution recommendations, the NHL should consider a more lucrative deal. For instance, it may consider returning to ESPN, because it is more likely that fans would watch the NHL in case it was broadcasted by ESPN.
On the other hand, the league should also make changes in the promotion strategies since the competitors have worked entirely hard to do a better job of promoting their brands. Thus, the NHL should do a great job of revamping its website and conducting promotion through digital marketing. For instance, it happens to be the only sports league that conducts promotions through YouTube. In addition, marketing campaigns will assist the league in leveraging a strong digital experience in order to create an optimal return (Laurence, 1996). Moreover, such organizations will help target the existing market base and will also focus on attracting new fans.
The product recommendations will focus on regulation victories. It will make it easier for fans to have a clear understanding since each game will be accorded three points. The current price is considered to be among the cheapest average ticket prices when compared to the four major sports alliances (Brooks, 1994). In addition, ticket prices show that the league has the best and the most affordable form of sports entertainment. However, it is still high enough to depict a quality product. Thus, it is highly recommended that the current prices should be changed in order to facilitate any form of inflation or deflation that may occur. Moreover, the NHL should embark on its variable ticket pricing, which will continue to make games accessible to most fans.
The above strategies and recommendations will assist in ensuring that the league continues to be among the best rated sports leagues in the world. Consequently, it will be linked to lack of awareness or product knowledge of the consumers. As a result, from the ignorance, there will be misconceptions regarding the game of hockey; hence many fans will not be able to understand the features of the league, which may not be realized in any other sport (Andrew, Pedersen, & McEvoy, 2011). However, when the recommendations are adhered to, the league will be successfully positioned as a top tier sport and will be watched by many fans. In addition, through engagement, consumers will be highly aware concerning the game of hockey and the league.