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NHL Seeks Greater Fan Engagement

The NHL’s SVP of corporate sales and marketing—Keith Wachtel—spoke on a marketing panel this morning.  Here are some of his comments via Karl Greenberg of Marketing Daily (

“Mobile is where things are taking place,” said Wachtel. “If a person is watching on TV, he’s doing it on iPad, too; he’s on mobile. Or he’s buying and sharing it on Shazam. Our fans are young, tech-savvy high earners.”

He added that the days of big sports leagues letting fans find them are over. “It’s us finding them, because they won’t go to; they are more likely to look for NHL content on sites like ESPN,” he said. “So we have had to change our model: If you want our content, we will give it to you because at the end of the day, the platform shouldn’t matter. The younger demographic is always changing where they are, using social, not traditional sites. The question is where are they? You have to find them before pulling them into the brand.”

Also interesting were some points about the nature of NHL fan loyalty and of the realistic potential size of the NHL audience. Wachtel said the goal is not to grow the fan base since hockey has geographic limits other sports don’t (“If you can go outside and play the sport there, we’ll be big there,” he said), but to create the kind of league-level loyalty among fans that other sports enjoy, not just team-level loyalty.

“We are fourth of the big four and our fans are the most passionate of all sports partly because it’s a smaller fan base. But while we have avid fans, most of our fans are tribal.”

much more

Filed in: NHL Talk, NHL Business of Hockey, NHL Media, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: keith+wachtel, marketing, media


bezukov's avatar

So it turns out that kids these days are using system that allowed them to be in touch with information anywhere they go.  Do you know what they’re calling it?  The “world wide web.”  How about it. Can you believe that?  That is some wild and crazy stuff.

Posted by bezukov from the kids are alright. on 10/29/11 at 02:41 AM ET

Baroque's avatar

“We want more fan engagement than we currently have,” he says. “Our current fans aren’t doing enough; we need Ranger fans to watch the Flyers. We need youth to buy more products. So the strategy is to get current fans to engage rather than just attract new fans.”

Good luck getting fans to watch more teams than the one (or a few) that already interest them. Oddly enough, just a couple days ago I read an article about how baseball is becoming more localized (using that trend to explain in part the lower ratings for playoffs, since once a fan’s favorite team is out they stop watching).

People have limited time and can’t watch everything. It’s completely normal and fair to set priorities based on how much a person cares about the teams involved when watching a sports competition. They do the same thing during the regular season, judging which games will be more entertaining to watch. Makes perfect sense to do the same thing during the playoffs.

Posted by Baroque from Michigan on 10/29/11 at 08:08 AM ET


I’m sure they’re trying to engage with fans more, but I’m not sure it’s succeeding. A few weeks ago, I wanted to listen to the radio broadcast of a Bruins preseason game. I was on the road in Northern Maine, where there is no radio station playing the game, so I tried to use several online radio apps that had carried the Boston radio feed last season—but they were all blocked by the rights holder. I was probably the only person in New England who was more interested in the Bruins’ preseason than the Red Sox’s last game, that same night, but I listen to the Bruins on the radio until I had driven about a hundred and fifty miles south. Luckily for me, I managed to find the Canadiens French play-by-play of the game on the radio. But even in northern Maine, not everyone speaks French.

So I hope that this new strategy of engagement works, but I’m pretty disappointed that the rightsholders have shut off some of the technologies that were allowing fans to follow hockey on their mobile devices last year.

Posted by Ken on 10/29/11 at 11:41 AM ET


Left out an important word there: I couldn’t listen to the Bruins until I had driven pretty far south.

Posted by Ken on 10/29/11 at 11:43 AM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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