Pop Culture and the NHL

By Strata PR

Social media is still something relatively new to the likes of the NHL. From Myspace, Facebook to Twitter…engaging hockey players with their fans is probably one of the greatest marketing ploys out there.

BUT there are its limits.

Hockey is not everyone’s favorite past-time. It’s rarely if ever covered on the major sports networks. Even Fox Sports uses stories from other online venues to produce their hockey content.

Hockey just isn’t getting the attention it really wants and deserves. There’s a marketing element that is missing.

Insert pop icon of the day Justin Bieber.

In a random delay at the Toronto airport yesterday, Kevin Weekes ran into the young pop sensation.

At first, I wasn’t for sure what Weekes was talking about on Twitter. Was he jamming to Bieber’s music or was Bieber at the airport? Ends up, Weekes met Bieber in the airport lounge and started hanging out with him.

Now, sometimes you have to prod Kevin to send pictures of his adventures. It’s not that I didn’t believe Kevin, I just wanted him to tweet a picture of this brief encounter. I’ve been telling Kevin for months that he should twitpic photos from his Twitterverse (i.e. from the stuff he tweets about on Twitter). [I’m still waiting on photos of his closet.]

So with a quick tweet to Kevin I told him to tweet a picture to us.

A few minutes later, his sister, Renee from Strata PR, posted up the picture that would define the rest of his day. A picture of Weekes and Bieber chilling at the airport.

Did the media outlets pick it up? Well, Puck Daddy definitely did.

But all it took was one tweet from Justin to show just how popular culture can influence the NHL:

@JustinBieber: Yo chillin with @kevinweekes NHL goalie.. Hes tight! follow him.

Within hours, Weekes’ numbers increased by 7,000 new followers. Even I got a few new Bieber followers just because of the conversation that I was having with the Weekes siblings and their Bieber encounter at the airport.

What we’ve learned from all of this is just how powerful pop culture could be for the NHL. Why not make the NHL part of pop culture along with its endorsements from A/B list celebrities?

Most people have no idea that Liam Neeson, Jason Bateman and Will Arnett are huge Rangers fans. Every time I’m at a Rangers game…they are there, sitting across from the visiting team’s bench.

But they don’t have the power to influence pop culture the way that young Bieber or Miley Cyrus can. Or at least the type of pop culture I’m talking about here.

Bieber has the power to influence the minds of millions of young fans. Just talking about hockey or being photographed wearing something hockey related promotes the game and encourages new fans to the sport. The target market here for pop culture is the new generation of hockey fans.

MTV, Nickelodeon and Disney influence the minds of every new generation. It influenced my mind as a kid and as a teenager. Perhaps it’s time for the NHL to start working with these three groups that know a thing or two about selling to young audiences.

How many parents rushed to purchase tickets to the Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus concerts? How many parents rushed to buy tickets for the Jonas Brothers?

They all had SOLD OUT TOURS worldwide thanks to the influence of children’s television. Even with my two-degrees of separation from Jake on the Wizards of Waverly Place, you always hear and see how crazy even 3 year olds get over someone they see on television every single day. They understand the star factor at such a young age.

Why do you think Teletubbies and Barney were so popular with pre-K aged children?

A kids hockey show on a major children’s network has the power to influence the new generation of hockey fans. Kids across America will BEG their parents to buy tickets to a hockey game.

The NHL is even getting on board with the whole sports & music scene with SXSW. Music & sports go hand and hand. Sports and music along with Hollywood all have the same outcome…to entertain the fans.

Coming out with a random movie every now and again that’s connected to the NHL isn’t going to cut it for the next generation of hockey fans, because so far the films have been really, really, really, really bad.

Having a kids show with real NHL players present in the show (who’s got the acting bug?) serving as Dads to young, aspiring pre-pubescent and teen hockey players creates a new fanbase. Throw in a little bit of rock and roll (because so many hockey players are really rockstars too) and you have your show.

Pop culture is a very powerful influence in our society. It always has been. From the Beatles to Elvis to New Kids on The Block to Britney Spears…they have influenced what we listen to, what we wear, where we go. They set the trends in popular culture. That is the market the NHL should be diving into.

In a recession, you can’t bank on the die-hards to save the league and their teams. Even those die-hards are being affected by the changes in the economy, job losses, etc. Marketing to a casual fan or just a new generation that can twist the arms of the parents holding the purse strings is one of the most powerful tools out there.

Investment in the future generation of hockey fans could boost the NHL to a whole new level.

As we’ve seen, all it takes is one tweet from someone that can influence the young minds in the world. 7,000 new fans in a matter of hours…imagine if that was 7,000 new bodies in an arena. Imagine if those 7,000 new fans brought one parent to the game with them. That’s 14,000 bodies in an arena. What about bringing a friend/sibling? That’s 21,000 new bodies in an arena.

At Prudential Center alone, that would officially be over capacity…and that’s without the die-hard fans and season ticket holders.

Imagine what would come out of a fan base that reaches millions of households every single day on a kid’s network. Welcome to what would be the new world of the NHL.

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