What does future hold for Blue Jackets marketing?
Larry Hoepfner, executive vice president of business operations for the Blue Jackets, continues with his thoughts about the playoff series last spring, keeping it local and what the future may have in store.
Q: How did you and your staff on the business side of the Blue Jackets view the playoff series last year against Pittsburgh?
A: We don't talk about it, but we had record gate receipts and our largest crowds. But, here's the way I like to look at it. I like to look at the crowd after a game, win or lose. There are great things to learn by being on a concourse or being in a stairwell after a game and listening to the customers' feelings.
In that playoff series, for those three games that we had here (Columbus), if you were on the concourses or in the stairwells, you heard how excited our fans were. That was my takeaway from it. There were people dancing on the concourses and people chanting "CBJ, CBJ" in the stairwells. There were people sticking around for 20 or 30 minutes after a game.
Out on the plaza, it was like a party atmosphere out there, even after Game 6. It was a very special bond that was exhibited between the team/organization and our fans. And everyone took notice of it.
Q: Does the organization do all of their marketing "in-house" or is there a unique partnership that exists with outside marketing firms?
A: When we first started this we had a marketing organization in town called TreeTree, and Post House (Gahanna) does a lot of our production and editing on these. But, there is also a lot of in-house work that is done.
Our Creative Services staff (in-house), our marketing staff and our own in-house production staff work on ideas and strategies. We don't just "third-party" this out and say "deliver us results." We were an integral part of it and it was all locally done by a really talented and committed group of people.
Q: Was the outsourcing that you did kept local?
A: Absolutely. At every opportunity, we are committed to keeping things local. Columbus is our home.
Q: By keeping your outsourcing local, does pride become a factor for these companies working with the Blue Jackets?
A: Oh yes, absolutely! I think they are caught up in what is going on. Working with the Blue Jackets, I would like to think is fun and exciting for them. They're proud to be associated with us. Staying local is very important to us.
We are Central Ohio's hockey team. And every chance that we have, we're going to work with local people. They understand the market best and they understand the fan base. But most of all, they understand us.
Q: Are there any plans as you move forward to get more of the Blue Jackets players, maybe in a more humorous way, involved in the marketing of the team?
A: I think if you look at some of our spots running right now, you'll see that we have more players involved. But, I think you have to look at where your organization is. If you look at the (Boston) Bruins, they have a great tradition, a winning tradition.
As John (Davidson) said, we started this process and we're building it brick by brick. And as we move forward, some of those bricks may involve more players. Some of those bricks may, I don't know, involve moving in a more humorous direction.
But where we are right now, we think that sticking and focusing on our credibility, our hard work, our character players, that's where we are, organizationally, as we sit here today. And that's what we're going to build our marketing program around. That's our strength.
You take the persona of the team and you build from there. I think the entire organization reflects exactly what our team reflects. That is hard working, high character and committed. So, you want to get that point across in all of your messaging. Over time, that may indeed change.
We've been at this for really about 18 months. Since then, we've received a lot of positive feedback from fans and our partners. But, we have a lot of work to do and we have a long way to go before we get to where we want to be. And we're just going to keep working at it.