SBJ/May 21 - 27, 2007/This Weeks News

NHL may enhance club services division

The NHL is proposing the creation of an enhanced club services division that will share business practices in hopes of increasing league revenue by at least $85 million over the next five years.

Teams would be asked to help each other boost
revenue by sharing business practices.

The proposal, which will be brought before the board of governors for a vote on June 20, calls for the creation of four account teams that will work with eight clubs each. Like the NBA’s team marketing and business operations department, the group will be designed to help those clubs maximize ticket and sponsorship sales, team sources said.

The NHL acknowledged that there is a proposal but declined to discuss it in advance of the board of governors meeting.

The NBA first began its club services effort two decades ago, evolving into a department that today collects sophisticated data and shares best practices. Each team is assigned a liaison from the league’s team marketing and business division to help facilitate best business practices.

In the past, the NHL has said the effort wouldn’t be modeled after the NBA program, but the NBA’s TEAMBO system clearly stands as a template.

Though each team won’t have a liaison from the NHL’s club services department, the account teams will visit regularly and will gather ticket, sponsorship and marketing information from each club to share with other teams. Each team also will have a club services manager who will share information with the league, according to team sources. If adopted, the proposal will require NHL clubs to share sales and marketing materials with competitors for the first time. NBA teams resisted that prospect when they first weighed it years ago.

The NHL believes that sharing such information can help increase league revenue by helping clubs target areas such as ticket sales, which the league would like to increase by 0.5 percent annually over the next five years, sources said. Last season, paid attendance rose only 0.2 percent across the league. Increasing paid attendance by 0.5 percent annually could drive league revenue up as much as $85 million over the five-year period, team sources said.

The league will continue to use StratTix, a computer ticketing system that allows teams to identify, in real time, who customers are, where they’re sitting and if they’re part of a group or a promotion. The system can also provide a leaguewide average of full season sales and group ticket information that teams can measure their work against. Teams also will have access to a sponsorship management system from Stone Timber River. The system can track available inventory, calculate profit margins for contracts and manage sponsor contacts.

Susan Cohig, who runs the club services division, likely will continue to run the new department, sources said.

Staff writer John Lombardo contributed to this report.

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