When you think of New Year’s Day, you probably think, “Where’s the Advil?” to nurse your headache from the night before and hope no embarrassing photos of you make it to your Facebook timeline. However, since 2008, another sporting event “owns New Year Day” – The NHL Winter Classic. (Formentin, 2013)
Since the first Winter Classic was played on January 1st, 2008, the game has become a mega event along with the likes of the NFL Superbowl, “making the NHL less and less a poor cousin to the NFL, MLB, and the NBA.” (Ebner, 2013) In Melanie Formentin’s 2013 article, “The Great Outdoor Game: NHL Finally Gets Marketing Right”, she describes how the NHL turned the Winter Classic into a profitable and popular event with fans and sponsors alike, through tradition and nostalgia-based marketing.
From HBO sport documentaries leading up to the event; to maximizing co-branding efforts with sponsors; to even reviving the throwback sweaters; the advertising and marketing from the Winter Classic has shown success by tapping into “human values which play an important role in consumer behavior” with sports being “the greatest opportunities to tap into these emotions.” (Formentin, 2013)
While Formentin’s article is very well organized and thoughtful, it could have been easily condensed, as it was often repetitive. With every new thought that was presented in the article, Formentin continually felt the need to point out that all advertising and marketing of the Winter Classic was based on tradition/nostalgia of playing the game of hockey outside which is the “root of the sport”, throughout the paper. (Formentin, 2013) This made it repetitive at time.
Another point of critique in Formentin’s article is that she doesn’t provide much numerical data to support the success of the NHL’s Winter Classic marketing strategy and, where she does show some data in the conclusion, it makes it seem like an afterthought. David Ebner’s, “Outdoor Games Key Cog in NHL Marketing Machine” 2013 article for The Globe and Mail, is a much better example of how to incorporate numerical info and statistics that reveal how much the event has grown. Two stats that really were surprising were that The Winter Classic pulled “in over 10 million in tickets, advertising, and merchandise” and the “half-dozen outdoor games is part of the reason next year’s salary cap is shooting up by around $6-million (U.S.) toward $71-million – and the games are a visible display of a league buoyed by a big-time new TV contract in Canada and strong exposure on NBC in the United States.” (Ebner, 2013) Adding additional numerical data throughout the book chapter, instead of just briefly mentioning it in a paragraph in the conclusion, would have heavily strengthened Formentin’s argument that the NHL finally did get marketing right. This leads to my final point.
Did the NHL finally get marketing right? What is the title based on? 2008 must not have been the first time the NHL thought about bringing the idea of the Winter Classic into fruition. There was not even any mention in the article of the Heritage Classic, the outdoor game that was played in 2003. Formentin’s article just showed good examples of what were current successes in the NHL marketing strategies. She never brought up any past failures, if there were any, and how they may have led to the growth and success of NHL’s current marketing strategy. Just from reading this article its unclear if the NHL did finally get marketing right? Maybe it was never ‘not right.’
While there are many critiques that can be presented on Formentin’s 2013 article, “The Great Outdoor Game: The NHL Finally Get Marketing Right”, the idea of tradition and nostalgia-based marketing making the event into a profitable and popular event with fans and sponsors alike,The is still something the NHL is using in the upcoming Chicago Blackhawks- Saint Louis Blues matchup this upcoming New Year’s Day. Gary Bettman has stated:
“With the Blues celebrating their 50th anniversary, the League celebrating its 100th and with Busch Stadium wrapping up its 10th year of service to the St. Louis community, there will be plenty of history to commemorate and lots of excitement to anticipate as the Blues and Blackhawks resume a rivalry that has provided so many fantastic memories.” (NHL Press Conference, 2016)
- Eber, D. (2013). Outdoor Games Key Cog in NHL Marking Machine. Retrieved from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/hockey/outdoor-games-key-cog-in-nhl-marketing-machine/article15862559/
- Formentin, M. (2013). The Great Outdoor Game: NHL Finally Gets Marketing Right. (3rd Edition). American History Through Sports: From Colonial Lacrosse to Extreme Sport. (Pp. 191-209) Santa Barbra, California; Praeger.
- NHL Press Conference. (2016) Blues-Blackhawks Rivalry Takes Centre Stage at the 2017 NHL Winter Classic at Busch Stadium. Retrieved from https://www.nhl.com/blackhawks/news/blues-blackhawks-rivalry-takes-center-stage-at-2017-nhl-winter-classic-at-busch-stadium/c-890790
- Thompson, D. (2014). Which Sports Have The Whitest/ Richest/ Oldest Fans. Retrieved from theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/02/which-sports-have-the-whitest-richest-oldest-fans/283626