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The Vent: Boycotting NHL sponsors; how lockout slows momentum in U.S.

Greg Wyshynski
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THE VENT is a forum to rants, raves, pleas and laments from hockey fans across the world about the NHL lockout. It runs every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. If you've got a take on the lockout and need to let it out, email us at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com, Subject: The Vent.)

Our first rant comes from "Pickett," with a call for NHL sponsor boycotts until the lockout is settled.

I won't be angry over the lockout until Oct. 11 has come and gone without a puck dropping on NHL ice. Obviously we, as fans, don't have any say in the lockout. We can scream and make threats about never returning all we want, but we'll be back.

I hate to say it, but we'll be back. I'll cancel my subscription to Gamecenter Live for a couple weeks, I may even miss the first few weeks through pure indignation, but I'll be back.

We're pawns in this game, but there are angles for leverage. For instance, the NHL proudly displays their marketing partners on their website.

If we had a large and vocal enough boycott of the sponsors of this buffoonery, we could get the corporations to do our work for us. In addition to the NHL's partners, the NBC suckers that signed a contract to show 1 month of hockey then lose their premier sport should be weighing heavily on Gary's actions.

Teams with local sponsors, arenas with naming rights, etc. should all be targeted by fans for a loud rejection of their products and services until they can get their partner back in line. If you go to your favorite team's website and see the ads plastered all over the site, write those people and let them know you've stopped using their products due to their financial support of the lockout. Maybe send the video from "Strange Brew" of the dad asking the McKenzies, "They spent their allowance on this, just what am I supposed to tell 'em?"

From NHL.com:

Bridgestone, Cisco, Compuware, Coors Light, EA Sports, Enterprise, The Hockey News (Sorry!!!), Gatorade, Lays, Only Vegas (?), Molson Canadian, Panini, Pepsi Max (Not Diet Pepsi?), Reebok, Westin, Sirius, Ticketmaster, Upper Deck, Bell, Hershey's, Canadian Tire, ScotiaBank, Visa, Tim Hortons, Discover Card, Geico, Honda, McDonalds, Verizon.

OK, this is all well and good, but … Canadian Maple donuts from Timmy's are our crack-rock.

Here's Dave, making the same call:

Puckdaddy, since the '94 lockout I have only attended two NHL games here in Calgary. The last game was an afternoon game vs. the Preds that has turned my daughter off of hockey almost completely.

My simple suggestion for those who want to "boycott" the NHL is do it via social media. A lot of "market analysts" are using social media data mining and page hit etc. to determine what a brand is worth and boycotting all NHL web site and blogs (except for puck daddy of course) is the quickest easiest way to let your feelings be known.

Yay! We avoided the boycott!

"OvechkinFan99" played Gary Bettman mode on NHL 13:

Here is "valued customer," riffing off Anthony's VENT regarding a phone campaign against the NHL:

I liked Anthony's idea of a calling campaign but think it could be tweaked to be more effective. The owners and players are arguing over revenue's that come from fans: Fans are customers! I don't believe it does much good to call them millionaires/billionaires but it would do good to tell them what the effects of a lockout will be. Emailing and calling your favorite franchise and telling them respectfully and specifically what effect the lockout will have on their revenues should be effective, they are crunching those numbers both long and short term right now so it is at the top of their minds. Impassioned pleas from fans to get back to the game will only strengthen their perception those fans will return no matter what.

Here are my specific suggestions and I will be sending these to the Buffalo Sabres today:

"If there is a lockout (regular season), when you return to work I plan as a customer to reduce my normal spending by X percent this year and growing the longer the stoppage continues. I will inform your sponsors, advertisers and TV networks of the same intent. I normally attend X games per year, buy X dollars worth of merchandise and support your sponsors over their competition with my loyalty and business. I will encourage my family, friends and acquaintances to do the same as a customer of yours I expect you to resolve your internal issues if you expect to keep my business."

Interesting threat; but would enough fans follow through?

Finally, here's Jim Wiley on how the lockout is hurting hockey's growth in the U.S.:

The owners are selectively ignoring whole aspects of the NHL and hockey in general all because it is not easily monetizable - the value of hockey in the media. They are looking to the past and thinking of last year's legers. They invoke "it's the sweater not the number on it"  and forget the damage to the brand they are causing. And it has been a struggling brand.

It is hard to honestly say NHL hockey is the 4th-ranked sports brand in the USA.

The last lockout caused us, the loyal hockey fan, to lose ESPN broadcasts that are just now being equaled by NBC. And NBC is, or now possibly was, planning to use NHL hockey to boost its NBC Sport channels primetime. They are burning bridges. Broadcaster and sponsors put a lot of money and effort into marketing and cross-brand associations and campaigns. The league needs to keep its advances with NBC Sports Network and weekends on NBC. Every time they do this, it takes years to get those sponsors and time slots back. Then more time to build the new fans back and loss of committed die hard fans being added to the pool. The loss of a year of youths not starting hockey because there was no exposure at a impressionable age. TV/Internet is where the sport needs to grow and grow revenues - as many have pointed out buildings only hold a finite number of fans.

The league, player, fans, media, etc. are also forgetting another issue that is helping hockey grow - improvements in broadcast quality and TV's. More people are getting a casual interest in hockey because of TV media exposure - the Olympics, the gimmicky outdoor games, excited hockey fans in bars, bandwagon effect (for playoff teams), for some less fighting, etc..

One of the biggest things that has been happening in the lower 50, at least, is that more games and markets are rolling out HDTV broadcast and at higher and higher resolutions. The fans are also getting larger higher resolution HD TV's. New building have better camera locations too.

Any person I have taken to a live NHL hockey game loves it. It is colorful, bright, fast, physical and they love the energy of the game. They see the puck and can follow it like basketball or soccer. HDTV is giving us that connection to first time viewers to a lesser degree but to many more people during a single broadcast/game.

The owners talk to the players about the effect of hold out time, and where the point of diminishing returns is for a single season is for their labor deal.

What about their point of diminishing returns for media and brand related revenues? The value of their franchises? The value of the NHL?

Well, those are all things both sides seem willing to risk. (That said, we think the NBC deal is going to be unaffected by the lockout; are you telling us that NBC and the NHL didn't have a conversation about the lockout before signing their deal?)

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