'We are all Kings' mantra working well for defending Stanley Cup champions
We are all Kings.
It's still the mantra of the defending Stanley Cup Kings, those four words splashed across the outside of Staples Center in a big, bold, black banner for home games. It's a simple yet effective and all-encompassing theme that's draped around the championship era of the NHL organization that has won two championships in the last three years.
The Kings are in their second year of this marketing campaign, and no matter the star players or championship rings or sellouts or record, this mantra looks good on the Kings.
"Coming off our 2012 championship, we started talking about what our team would be like and what our franchise would be like and what our fans would be like," said Kelly Cheeseman, Chief Operating Officer of AEG and the Kings. "What it came down to from the front office to the way the team bonds together and the way the fans work together was that after 47-plus years, we're all about family ... Together, we are all Kings."
The Kings were kings for another day on Monday as they visited President Barack Obama at the White House, another perk of winning the Stanley Cup last June. The celebrations continue for the team that made three consecutive Western Conference Finals.
This season, the Kings are 21-16-12 with 54 points and sit in ninth place in the Western Conference standings, one game out of a playoff berth. But you know these Kings, they usually don't get serious until spring time.
And celebrating a theme of unity is what the Kings are about.
"You never know how many Cups, or when, you're going to win," said Luc Robitaille, the Kings' president of business operations and former King. "We knew we were going to compete for it every year. We know for the next 7-8 years we will. Our plan as far as changing after we won the Cup, it's a little bit different. We don't have to focus on selling tickets because every game is sold out.
"But we're focusing on growing the game. We're not trying to reach out to fans that don't know the game. We want to reach out to fans that are intrigued by the game and understand it. We want them to be part of our special group, which is the Kings family. Our fans have been around since the beginning. That's growing every day. Hockey fans take a lot of pride in knowing something other people don't know."
The Kings know a lot about social media, and how to champion an innovative, creative, jaw-dropping conversation through their official Twitter account.
"We push the envelope. We know we push," Robitaille said. "We push our staff to get ahead of the curve. We understand we're in L.A. We should be a little bit ahead or try to be ahead of other people. We take pride in it.
"We're always trying to steal the best ideas. We don't think we're smarter than everybody. We're looking at every team. We take the best ideas. We're not taking ourselves seriously. We have fun with it. Sometimes we make fun of ourselves. We make fun of other teams but we make fun of ourselves. At the end we know we want to be a little bit of an edgy team."
With an edgy mascot. Bailey, the Kings mascot, follows the same protocol. He Tweeted an epic barb at the San Jose Sharks during Super Bowl XLIX after seeing dancing Sharks accompany Katy Perry's halftime show.
The Sharks, who have never won a Stanley Cup, squandered a 3-0 series lead over the Kings in the first round of the playoffs last year.
Bailey will take over the NHL's official Twitter feed Tuesday in an effort to promote the premier of the Stadium Series game in San Jose. An Epix crew has been following the Kings in the buildup to the outdoor game. That kind of publicity can't hurt, either.
The Kings were edgy all right in the Stanley Cup Finals in 2014 when they took out a video billboard in Manhattan, home of Madison Square Garden and their opponent, the New York Rangers. That kind of advertising doesn't come cheap, and the Kings are still spending more than $1 million this season in advertising, according to a Kings official.
The Kings had actor Will Ferrell, a Kings fan, scream "Go Kings, Go!" in the video that ran in New York. Their gameplan was to create major buzz, and they aced it.
"At the time we talked to New York and said, 'Look, we're going to do this.' I don't think they got what we were doing," Robitaille recalled. "We said, 'Look, if you want to do something here (in Los Angeles) it would be fun. We didn't care. Once it got out there, they were shocked, I think.
"We're going to compete on the ice. Once you're on the ice, maybe it's because I was a player, you don't know what's going on. If you're able to do a few things that make people talk, it's a lot of fun. You can be fun and bring more notoriety. I think the NHL is at a different level than where we were 10 years ago. We should keep pushing that. That was fun for us. I think if the Rangers would've done something to us, that would've made more people talk."
Kings mascot Bailey gets people talking, too.
Bailey has 37,000 followers on Twitter and has more reach -- when you take into account Instagram, Twitter and Facebook -- than any other mascot in professional sports, according to the Kings.
Bailey is a full-time gig. A fun one, especially when he's on social media. He's always on Twitter during games if not at a watch party. He sees himself as an extension of the Kings.
"Everything I do is to poke fun, but it's sports. It's about having a good time," Bailey said. "We're drawing attention to get people to talk. It should be enjoyable. My Twitter feed should be something that takes you away from everyday life and lets you laugh.
"The only time to be taken seriously is when we're raising money or awareness or something awful has happened and we're trying to raise money. It's a good outlet to try to help people."
Yes, Bailey does interviews, too.
He's not just an in-game mascot. Between Bailey and the Ice Crew and players and front office executives, the Kings do about 1,600 appearances in a calendar year. That's up by over 1,000 appearances since Robitaille joined the front office eight years ago.
NHL teams generally market themselves as teams, not individuals, like the other three major sports. Superstars Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby are the exceptions, but even on a championship-caliber team like the Kings, who could market Justin 'Game 7' Williams and 2012 Conn Smythe trophy winner Jonathan Quick and Alec Martinez, who waved his hands in a flurry after scoring the goal to win the Stanley Cup in 2013.
The Kings love that it took a team to win the Cup in 2012 when they dominated and 2014 when they scrapped and clawed and won three Game 7s on the road. And that's how they continue to market themselves.
Could the Kings litter Los Angeles with billboards of Anze Kopitar or Dustin Brown or Quick, with just a picture and no name attached? Would Angelenos respond to that kind of campaign?
"That's not what we stand for," Robitaille said. "You look at our team, we're about the team. In this city, I think what people like about the Kings is that we're about the team. They know we won the Cup as a team last year. It was one of the most incredible runs in sports. Any sport. If you like sports, what the Kings did last year, it might never be seen again.
"Even though we have the Anze Kopitar, Jonathan Quick, Drew Doughty, Dustin Brown, they're superstars. They understand it's not about them. It's about the team. For some reason, and it's very rare and hard to do in L.A., but the city accepted that. It's become the cool thing, which is kind of neat."
In a city with Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Clayton Kershaw, Kobe Bryant and Yasiel Puig, among other stars.
The Kings are shining bright, having won two Cups in the last three years. But it took 45 years without a championship to get there.
"Our goal is to never forget where we came from," Cheeseman said. "We'll continue to promote our brand in a very busy market. We know that we're up against other franchises in the market like the Lakers and Dodgers, which are two very powerful brands. We know what we go up against in terms of brand awareness and how we represent ourselves. Never step down and continue to promote at a similar level as we did three or four years ago.
"I think our brand and our logo speaks for itself. I think with players there are always different challenges. I don't think necessarily it's a Kings challenge but consistently an NHL challenge. It's a different sport. It's what hockey is about. It's a team-oriented sport. It's the way our players talk and act. They all talk about team and want to be promoted as a team."
The Kings also believe in their part in advancing hockey at all levels, by giving away free equipment to kids and having players and coaches and broadcasters conduct junior clinics.
More help is on the way. The AHL is moving five of its teams to California. The Kings' affiliate that's in Manchester, N.H. is headed to Ontario, Ca. Now, fans can watch some of the Kings' prospects play nearby with just a short drive -- depending on traffic, of course.
This means better hockey in Southern California. That can only help.
As for the best marketing campaign, Robitaille said: "Our fans are the best marketers. We're not trying to go after Lakers fans or Clippers fans. We're trying to grow from what we have."
And what the Kings have is a solid foundation. One based on unity.
We are all Kings.