My favorite sports league leaves me scratching my head too many times when it comes to promoting the game. It’s a wonder I still have hair. Especially with its marketing strategy in the US, where the NHL has tried desperately to find an audience in non-hockey markets like Florida, Nashville, and Atlanta through expansion. Such moves were more for lining the league’s pockets than for the “good of the game.” Last year’s embarrassing TV ad campaign featuring an unknown actor (rather than a real player) getting ready for a game like Batman puts on his body armor, with the assistance of a lady in a negligee… in a locker room – made me cringe each time it was aired. Then they signed a lucrative television deal with speciality cable channel Versus (formerly the Outdoor Life Network) as oppose to a lesser financial deal with broad-based ESPN, and now you can’t even find the game on the tube if you wanted to. Wonderful forethought by the league in trying to reach a broader audience and grow the game.
This year the NHL made a couple of decent moves that I applauded them for. For one, their new ad campaign featuring real NHL hockey players is brilliant! Second, they signed a deal with YouTube to feature NHL clips on the site. Also brilliant.
And just when I think that there actually is a marketing department at NHL head office, they make a really stupid move. According to Steve Rubel’s blog, the NHL has recently banned the ability to embed YouTube videos of their clips on other sites in reaction to a site called Skate to the Penalty Box that was doing just that. Legally. I thought the NHL was trying to find an audience? God forbid that there are actually fans who are passionate about the game and want to dedicate an entire web site to it and show it off to others. Does the NHL not understand the power of viral marketing or sharing? If the NHL wants to find its stride, it better learn how to skate. YouTube can be a great vehicle in helping to generate more awareness for the game, and find more fans. But, if you take away YouTube’s greatest strength, you may as well place game clips on Versus site.