A Novel Concept

On my way home from work last week, I heard a hockey news item about a promotional idea the Pittsburgh Penguins are going to employ for their pre-season game on September 25th against the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets. Here is the article, from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

In short, the Penguins are going to give away 8,000 tickets to youths ranging from the ages between 4-24 for their pre-season game against the Blue Jackets at the state of the art Consol Energy Center

This led me to utter the following: “Bravo Penguins’ ownership and management! You guys get it.” And the promotion inspired me to assess how such an idea could be applied to the Blue Jackets, a team coming off a disappointing 2009-10 season – particularly a team already slated for a 50% drop in Full Season Equivalents for the upcoming 2010-11 season.

Such a creative promotion – or something much like this – could have great value.

This organization must search for creative methods to draw fans and to include new fans – in this case, for their pre-season games. One – such a promotion and the goodwill associated with it – might lead to the other – obtaining new fans and bringing back those fans soured on last season’s results for its regular season games.

Above all, this organization must reward those faithful season-ticket, Personal Seat License (PSL) and partial-season ticket holders for their years of loyalty, most of which has been quite unrewarded.

Here’s my insight as to the Penguins’ promotion:

Free tickets? Are you kidding me? Wow, what a novel concept! This really is rocket science. This is better than splitting the atom. (Note: This is all sarcasm, but you get the idea)

Here are some suggestions that I would like to share for the Blue Jackets brass to consider:

  • Give out free tickets for pre-season games not only to students, but more importantly to High School and Junior-level hockey players. If anything, build a relationship that may result in a lifelong fan. As those of you who’ve attended a NHL game, once you attend a hockey game in person, you’re hooked for life. You don’t buy that? Then explain how Snoop Dogg goes to one Anaheim Ducks game and leaves a season-ticket holder and a NHL addict. Goodwill here people, goodwill.
  • If the organization doesn’t want to ante up for such a goodwill gesture, perhaps the organization could work with the local corporations who won’t use these tickets anyway during the pre-season and turn these tickets into a charitable donation. In this instance it results in a win-win for both the organization – goodwill – and the corporations – for tax purposes and from a public relations standpoint. For those corporations, the Blue Jackets should make every effort to publicly acknowledge this gesture in the national and local media.
  • In addition to that, offer all pre-season game tickets for $5 dollars to those non-season tickets holders.  Think of this as similar to those $5 seats offered for the spring football games at the Ohio State uniforms. This allows fans who normally can’t afford to attend games an opportunity to be a part of the experience at The Horseshoe. And, you never know, if the experience is positive, you may have found a new, lifelong fan, that you wouldn’t have obtained, otherwise.
  • Above all, rather than “award” the season-ticket holders with pre-season games that are irrelevant – who actually goes to all of these games? Note: Pre-season NHL games are similar to Major League Baseball – MLB – pre-season games in that they utilize a split-squad concept – basically, an “A” squad and a “B” squad, with the primary intent to determine who might make the NHL roster from training camp. Rather, charge those faithful fans absolutely nothing, nada, gratis – for these games. Thus, take that overall charge to the FSEs and throw it out the window. You’d be surprised how far such gestures will go come renewal time.

On that last suggestion, from a personal standpoint, let me share what one of the few savvy Blue Jacket ticket representatives did to entice me to obtain season tickets: He provided free tickets, two rows behind the net, for a pre-season game against the Carolina Hurricanes. The result? The ticket representative “got me”: Hook, line and sinker.

As I mentioned earlier, creativity.

This all comes down to a concept my very wise  father once told me: “Something beats the living heck out of nothing”

To translate: Wouldn’t it be great to see, rather than the tens and hundreds of “friends and family” attending the pre-season games to see thousands – actually tens of thousands – attend their pre-season games? And actually drum up interest and a buzz and, above all, to create a new fanbase?

As the saying goes: “A little bit goes a long way”.

This is “outside the box” thinking. This is creativity. This is the way to drum up a groundswell that this team so desperately needs – this from the 22nd-ranked team in the NHL in average home attendance.

If you’re reading this Blue Jackets promotions and management group: Please, make it happen.

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