When it comes to creating content for a professional sports enterprise, market conditions are always a vital component in terms of identifying a particular approach to marketing your brand. After speaking with content creators for two separate American Hockey League franchises, the notion that each market is unique was only reinforced.
For the Laval Rocket, Claudia Richard had the exciting challenge of producing content for an AHL club that is the Montreal Canadiens affiliate. The Canadiens, who have a rich history as an original six franchise who’ve won an impressive 24 Stanley Cups, recently moved their farm club to Laval in advance of this past regular season. Since Laval is approximately a 20 minute drive to the Bell Centre, where the Canadiens play, Claudia Richard indicated that the club’s marketing strategy is different since the two teams are so close in proximity.
“It’s easier for the Montreal Canadiens to call-up more guys. And the more players get called up, it’s better for us. For instance, when [goaltender] Charlie Lindgren was recalled by the Habs and played well, there was a lot more buzz around the Rocket when he came back. Because he was playing in Montreal and it’s only like 20 minutes away, people know what he did for the Canadiens,” explained Richard, who initially began her career with her sights set on being a journalist.
“I’ve always wanted to work in sports. I started my career in the media, and I started my career as a journalist for about two years working for a French radio station and creating content for the station. From there, I started to work for a junior team for one season. After that, I applied for this job here in Laval and I got it. So that was my path to where I am today,” she recounted.
The Rocket, who just completed their inaugural AHL season in 2017-18, emphasized the idea that a player’s path to the Canadiens begins in Laval.
“We want to let people know that the road to the NHL starts here in Laval. We tend to promote the players who got drafted, and who will probably play with the Montreal Canadiens. That’s what the Canadiens are asking from us, to get their names out there so that when they arrive in the NHL, people will know who they are.”
Moving forward in year two, however, Richard indicated that she and her staff will be making more of an effort to promote the league as well.
“Yeah, we want to promote the league as well. In Quebec and in Montreal, a lot of people still don’t know much about the American Hockey League, and how high the level of hockey is here. So moving forward next year, we want to make even more of an effort promoting the skills and the league, just to show people that we’re a professional team and it’s a good level of hockey,” she said.
The major challenge that the Rocket face, is that they don’t really play in a hockey town. Instead, it’s more of a Montreal Canadiens town. So for the Laval Rocket, it’s crucial that they try and offer certain things that the Habs may not.
“I think it’s to promote the players. We’re like a brand within a bigger brand here in Montreal. When the players come to Laval, they’re either young, or they are career AHL players. We need to promote the players, and put them out there. We also need to show a lot of behind the scenes, because that’s what people are looking for. We always try to offer things that the NHL team cannot.”
Conversely, the AHL’s Chicago Wolves are an established organization and are partners with a team that is in the midst of an inaugural season. Like the Laval Rocket, the Vegas Golden Knights came into the 2017-18 campaign without much of an identity. But while Laval is clearly trying to position themselves alongside the Montreal Canadiens for promotional purposes, the Wolves try hard to distinguish themselves from their NHL brand as much as possible.
“We are the Wolves. Yes, we were partners with the Thrashers, we were partners with the Canucks, we were partners with the Blues, and now we’re partners with Vegas. But hey, we’re still the Wolves. Don’t worry about [whoever we’re affiliated with], you can like the Wolves on your own,” said Lindsey Willhite, the Chicago Wolves director of public relations.
Obviously with the Stanley Cup run that the Golden Knights are currently enjoying, the Wolves have been using the opportunity to promote some of their past players who are now starring in Vegas. But in general, the Wolves see themselves as a conservative brand.
“We’ve always portrayed ourselves as conservative. We haven’t been splashy just for the sake of it. We haven’t pumped out obnoxious tweets or obnoxious social media posts just to stand out,” he added.
Willhite also echoed a sentiment expressed by Claudia Richard of the Rocket. Which is that right now, social media is perhaps the single most area of focus as far as the media platform is concerned.
“Now that social media is so dynamic, and so massive, you’re almost feeding that beast first. You want to hit people right. You don’t want to write something that they’re going to ignore because who knows how many thousands of impressions you could be missing out on. I would say the ability to read social media, to communicate via social media, and to craft good content for social media is probably number one right now.”