Jackets prep for season with new campaign

Jackets prep for season with new campaign

Published Jun. 18, 2012 9:09 a.m. ET

After another disappointing season that saw the Columbus Blue Jackets at their worst, finishing last in the NHL and seeing their playoff chances disappearing as early as Thanksgiving, the club’s marketing department is putting out a rally cry for fans to get behind.

Ladies and gents, the club’s got a new marketing campaign going into a 2012-13 season that may not include Captain Rick Nash, but will include the NHL All-Star game in Columbus. And they’re hoping you “Join the Battle.”

“It’s a rallying cry and an acknowledgment that we recognize we have work to do,” said John Browne, the club’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer. “We’re excited about it. In some ways it’s got kind of a hybrid of ‘Carry the Flag' and ‘Gotta See It Live.’ ‘Carry the Flag’ is a call to action to fans. ‘Gotta See It Live’ was about the arena experience. ‘Join the Battle’ is about embracing all that. We hear the players use ‘it’s a battle out there,’ but it’s also a rallying cry for the fans to get behind the team as we continue to get better.”

The club’s first ad of the new campaign rolled out Sunday in the Columbus Dispatch. But the entire campaign in all forms will hit Columbus Monday via television ads, radio and other social media avenues. 

“(The new campaign is) initially focused on promoting the draft party next Friday,” said Browne of the free Friday event that begins at 6 p.m. at Nationwide Arena and will have live 2012 NHL draft coverage from Pittsburgh, Pa., beginning at 7 p.m.  “(The new campaign) will then move into ticket sale initiatives.”

Browne said ticket sales are up approximately 13 percent over last year at this time. 

“Things are going actually well,” he said. “Renewals are better than expected. I think a lot of that is attributed to the All-Star game.”

Fans who visit BlueJackets.com or call 1-800-NHL-COLS for ticket packages for next season are able to get special access to the 2013 NHL All-Star game in Columbus, depending on what they purchase. Browne said the special promotion “has certainly helped us.”

What’s also helped is reaching out to fans in social media, which Browne said will continue into the next season as part of the club’s digital platform.

“We recognize there are a number of people out there blogging (about the team.) We’ve embraced it,” said Browne. “We are working closely with them and communicating with them often. We gather their feedback and try to answer questions and provide them information.”

The club also reached out to the fan base on the new campaign, looking for feedback on the slogan that was pitched to the club by a New York City advertising firm specializing in sports marketing.

“For the people we’ve tested it with, the reaction has been positive,” said Browne. “It’s the message that we should be coming out with.”

Browne said he’s aware of the critics that are cynical of a club that’s yet to have a competitive on-ice product, but as far as this new campaign goes, “All the feedback has been positive.”

“You’re always going to have some critics and some level of cynicism. We get that. We know we need to improve,” said Browne. “And we’re excited to see what the next few weeks are going to bring to the on-ice product.”

Browne’s hoping the NHL draft, where the Blue Jackets will have the second — and possibly 30th — pick in the first round, will bring some excitement to the fan base and let the new campaign come to life through them.

“One thing we like about the new campaign is that there’s a natural extension with the activation of it. There’s a lot we can do with this theme. It’s more than just a tagline,” he said. “We can actually bring it to life in the way we operate; our vernacular. That’ll be part of the experience.”

Speaking of the experience, the club is continuing to find ways to keep the in-game experience a good one at Nationwide Arena next season. In addition to an all new scoreboard that includes LED functionality, HD quality and an enhanced sound system, the club is looking to make the fan experience interactive.

“We’re going to continue to build on the game experience. It’s certainly a focal point,” said Browne. “We know people have a lot of entertainment choices in Columbus. So the experience of coming here needs to be special and unique.”