December 23, 2009
Did you know there's a rash of Kronwalling going on around Detroit? More to the point: Have you been Kronwalled? (And hey, was that Zetterberg Guy at the 22-second mark?)
The commercial above is instantly memorable, as Detroit Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall's(notes) explosive body checks are celebrated with "Terry Tate: Office Linebacker"-like comedy. It's funny, it's irreverent and it exhibits an impressive level of puckhead street cred; gotta love the Claude Lemieux(notes) reference. It also points to a Web site that both rationalizes spending money on regular-season games while offering fans benefits for doing so.
In other words: It doesn't seem like anything the Detroit Red Wings have historically done from a marketing perspective. But that stodgy reputation is something Quack! Media is working to change with Open Skate Detroit.
"It isn't a straight-up marketing program. It's a fan organization that's officially recognized by the Red Wings as a good time and a good idea," said Al McWilliams, master of the universe (official title) for Quack.
We spoke with McWilliams about this marketing campaign aimed at money-spending fans in desirable demographics, and how it might end up in your hockey-town after succeeding in Hockeytown.
Open Skate Detroit started this season as a way to encourage a crowd that goes out to bars and concerts to consider dropping their dough on the NHL as well. Open Skate worked with four bars -- The Loving Touch in Ferndale, The Majestic Café in Detroit, The Elbow Room in Ypsilanti and The Arena in Ann Arbor -- to develop satellite viewing parties for every Detroit game, complete with drink specials.
At those venues, fans can purchase tickets for designated Open Skate games at the Joe, where the fans sit together and enjoy perks like exclusive postgame concerts.
"The idea is that [fans] watch the game together when the team's in Dallas, and then while they're there, 'Hey, there's an Open Skate game next week ... let's all go together,'" said McWilliams.
In its third month, Open Skate has had over 200 people at its first three games, according to Quack Media. They've also developed some cool gear for Open Skate fans, including a "Mask of Death a.k.a. Sawchuk's ghost" shirt available at events (see bottom of page).
We spoke with McWilliams about the campaign and its future:
Q. The Detroit Red Wings don't necessarily have the reputation of being as adventurous in their campaigns as other teams are. This seems like something that may have come from your house instead of them house, correct?
MCWILLIAMS: It came from them, via us.
The creative on it is here, with full support from them. I think that you hit on the fact that there is that reputation, which is exactly why we're here. They're interested in doing some new things, and our job is to do new things.
I am personally a die-hard Red Wings fan, for life. I have been since I was a kid, and I'm now in my late 20s. I love my team. A lot. I want to see my team be successful on the ice and be successful in the city, which is obviously going through some hard times right now.
Q. Did you bring this to the Wings or were they looking to do something like this? How would you describe the concept of Open Skate?
They were looking to do something like this.
The Red Wings are a very traditional organization. We love that about them, and they're proud of it. We want to bolster that by getting my generation more involved in the team.
It's about hockey, but it's also about having a really great time. If you're not going to go to the game, instead of watching it on the end of your bed or in a random bar scattered about, let's get everyone to the same bars to watch these games.
A lot of this came from a selfish desire to be able to watch hockey and go to games with my friends. Could I find 20,000 friends that wanted to go to games with me in Detroit, that are my age (21-35) and don't wear extra large jerseys?
But it's not just an age thing, it's a lifestyle thing.
When we think about it, the people who invented drugs are in their 70s right now. I don't really look at age as an indication of how wild people are. It's a crowd thing. Not to say drugs are cool, because they're not.
Q. When it comes to some of the attendance issues -- such as they are -- for the Red Wings, we're always gotten two vibes from Detroit fans: That the team doesn't market itself well enough, and that they were slow to offer significant discounts on tickets to get fans in the building. Was there a sense that a group of fans was being priced out of regular-season games?
Most of my market research came from me and my friends, but I think it was less about price. We also have a record label here so we know what people are spending: 10 bucks on a ticket plus $15 on a T-shirt plus five or six drinks ... they're spending $60 a night a few nights a week going to shows in Detroit.
Our thing is: What's the difference? You go to a rock show and have a great time, and there's no different between that and a hockey game.
Q. Do you think what you're accomplishing here for the Red Wings can be repeated in other NHL cities where franchises aren't that forward-thinking? Teams like, for example, the New York Rangers?
I would say yes and no.
We're doing a special price so we can get everybody in the same section. This crowd, this lifestyle we're going after, are going out three or four times a week. So we're trying to get them to come to a hockey game instead one of those nights per month.
The Red Wings are buttoned-up; as far as repeating it in other cities ... if there's a more traditional team than the Red Wings in another city, there are only two or three.
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The next Open Skate game is expected to be against the Phoenix Coyotes in January, followed by one against the San Jose Sharks. Hopefully for the Wings, the man himself will be back for some Kronwalling on the ice.