Puck Daddy - NHL

Drew Rosenhaus, the NFL agent whose Miami-based Rosenhaus Sports reps over a hundred names including Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens, had a curious message on his Twitter feed this morning about the NHL:

"I have been hired by the fans of the NHL's Florida Panthers to negotiate lower season ticket prices. I will keep you posted on the outcome."

Curious because the Florida Panthers do in fact have tickets of above-average price, according to the 2008-09 Fan Cost Index (.pdf). Curious because Rosenhaus taking on what amounts to a class-action movement on behalf of hockey fans is about as random as it gets.

Fans starting buzzing. The Miami Herald picked it up. Then came the official announcement this morning:

Rosenhaus Sports announced today that sports super agent Drew Rosenhaus has been hired by fans of the Florida Panthers to renegotiate season ticket pricing for the 2009-10 NHL season.

"As a longtime Panthers fan and a person who believes in giving sports fans the value and the atmosphere they deserve, I am absolutely thrilled to represent the Cats faithful at the bargaining table," Rosenhaus said. "That said, this a unique situation for me to represent the fans as opposed to professional athletes. But as a passionate Cats follower, I've got my finger on the pulse of the BankAtlantic Center faithful.

"Also, if I can offer a word of advice for head coach Pete DeBoer, president Michael Yormark and the rest of the Panthers front office, ‘be prepared to go low on cost and high on value, and don't get too comfortable because I'll be knocking on your door in the next 48 hours.'"

"We felt we needed the very best agent in professional sports to represent us in these negotiations," said Florida Panthers advisory board member and season ticket holder Nat Levine. "We understand that negotiating season ticket prices may be a first in the industry, but there is simply no option we won't explore to make sure every South Florida sports fan has the opportunity to experience the excitement of Florida Panthers hockey."

Did the tone strike you as a little light? Does the fact that the press release was sent over by KCBS Marketing tip you off about anything?

It should: Drew Rosenhaus and the Florida Panthers have pulled off an ingenious bit of viral marketing today.

(UPDATE: Interview with Drew Rosenhaus later in the story.)

Matt Sacco, director of public relations for the Panthers, said that this is part of the team's new marketing campaign for the off-season.

"Drew is working with us, and the premise of the marketing campaign is that he has been hired by Panthers fans to renegotiate season-ticket pricing with the club," he said. "He was here yesterday to film two TV commercials and a couple of radio spots, and be involved in a couple of print ads. The campaign is launching next Tuesday, but we're starting it now virally."

Hence the Tweet, and hence the press release. Future plans include footage of the intense negotiations on YouTube.

What will the result of these negotiations be for Panthers fans? The team is mum. But, logically, why would Drew Rosenhaus would involved in an ad campaign that has him losing to the Panthers and ticket prices going up, you know?

Rosenhaus has only NFL clients, so there's no conflict of interest. Sacco said the plans started being considered a month or so ago, with Rosenhaus's commercial on ESPN (video) being a selling point. (Not to mention his Oscar-worthy performance with the Burger King.)

We've got calls into Rosenhaus and may hear from Panthers COO Michael Yormark later. We'll update if we do. In any event, kudos to both parties for a very inventive bit of viral marketing to kick off the summer. More than a few Rosenhaus watchers and hockey fans were duped this morning.

UPDATE: Spoke to Rosenhaus earlier this afternoon about the marketing campaign with the Panthers. "I wish I could take the credit for it," he said.

The Panthers reached out to Rosenhaus Sports partner Robert Bailey and pitched the idea for the campaign.

"It sounded like it wouldn't take too much of my time, and we were able to work it around my schedule," Rosenhaus said. "I was happy to play along, and shed a little light on the fact that agents and teams can sometimes work together for a good cause."

He said the proceeds he's receiving for the gig are going to the Diabetes Research Foundation, and the team is also providing Panthers tickets to his clients.

Rosenhaus said there's no conflict of interest, because he's not a registered hockey agent; but he did clear the gig with the National Football League Players' Association.

This obviously isn't his first foray into commercials or film work, as we mentioned above. He's also been featured in "Jerry Maguire," "Any Given Sunday" and "Arli$$" on HBO.

"I know there are critics [of] my high profile, but in each case these were not things where I went and sought them out. People come to me, they're good ideas; in the case of the Burger King, the proceeds went to my client, Terrell Owens. There was no financial compensation for the ESPN thing. I loved the 'This Is SportsCenter' commercials," he said. "They've all been no-brainers."

As for his hockey credentials, Rosenhaus said he's a fan.

"I work out with a number of professional hockey players who work out down here in South Florida. I'm a big Panthers fan. I like the team president, Michael Yormark; I think he's been an impressive sports executive," he said. "The truth is that they're doing a terrific job of lower season tickets, opening up free parking and giving fans access to the players. I think it's awesome."

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