It became obvious to me while watching Sundays NBC broadcast. The NHL made a mistake. No, I’m not talking about giving NBC flex-scheduling capabilities (guess what the Rangers are back on NBC next week!). The NHL should have hitched its marketing wagon to Alex Ovechkin.
To me the NHL is something of a conundrum in the sports-as-a-business landscape. They embrace the niche status of the sport (how many times can you hear Gary Bettman say, that the NHL has the best fans in all of sports – he doesn’t say most fans – but hes right), but continue to make decisions of a mass audience sport (the NBC example above).
Here’s where the Crosby/Ovechkin argument gets inserted. Now, I am not saying that Crosby is a poor ambassador for the league or the game, but it’s the execution of the marketing that would actually make better use of Ovy. The NHL (hopefully) understands that it has mostly hardcore, passionate fans and very very few casual, I-don’t-know-much-but-I’ll-watch-if-its-on fans. Now here’s where it might get confusing, so try to follow me here. The NHL picks Sidney Crosby to be in its ads, sends him to do interviews (I guess), etc. Where are those ads playing? Versus and the NHL Network. Who’s watching Versus and the NHL Net? Those hardcore passionate fans. They don’t need Crosby to sell them the game. They are sold. Now, Ovy isn’t in many national ads. He can’t really speak English and his haircut looks bad even next our buddy McG. But, he makes the SportsCenter top 10. And you know who watches SportsCenter… that casual fan. Who now is sneaky interested.
So in my field of advertising/research, you need 5 or impressions to make an impact with an individual. Using my girlfriend as an example – we watched SportsCenter Sunday morning. The Ovechkin goal was in the weekly top 10. Later we watched NBC’s game, who did my girlfriend notice – number 8 of course.
Here’s what I’m getting at; besides those few official channels, the NHL should be riding on what little coverage the mainstream press does give. It was an easy example this week – someone sees that flying 8 on sportscenter, they flip through the channels and see that same flying 8 again and boom the NHL on NBC gets a pretty damn high rating