SBJ/20100802/This Week's News

Blackhawks’ business team capitalizes on championship

When 2 million people crammed along Michigan Avenue to celebrate the Chicago Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup victory with a parade, the team’s senior vice president, Jay Blunk, realized immediately the club’s entire operation had changed.

“How far it will change is up to us,” Blunk said recently.

The Blackhawks quickly have become one of the hottest things in town, and the team has converted that interest into new and future business opportunities. It added 13 new or expanded corporate partnerships in less than a month, increased its season-ticket waiting list from 3,000 to 7,000 people, and received reports from local rinks that entry-level participation in youth hockey is up 20 to 30 percent across the city.

“Business has accelerated,” Blunk said. “It’s what you work for and talk about when you imagine having a champion.”

Chicago’s season-ticket waiting list grew to 7,000
since the Stanley Cup victory.

The team hosted more than 10,000 fans at its Blackhawks convention this past weekend at the Chicago Hilton & Tower. The front office similarly hopes to sell out the Blackhawks’ first practice at the 20,500-seat United Center in September. It sold approximately 6,000 tickets last year.

Ratings success during the Stanley Cup Final, when the Chicago market generated a 25.2/41 rating over four network games, will allow the Blackhawks to increase their advertising rates next season, Blunk said. The Blackhawks own a 20 percent stake in Comcast SportsNet Chicago, which airs more than 50 of the team’s games a year.

Local corporate demand to associate with the team is at its peak. The club has signed 13 new or expanded partnerships, including with Best Buy, EA Sports and Robert Morris University. The team couldn’t disclose all of its new partnerships because several are waiting to announce their deals later this year, said Dave Knickerbocker, the Blackhawks’ senior executive director of marketing and business development.

Best Buy, a partner of the team two years ago who then left, is returning with a multiyear deal. The agreement includes access to the Blackhawks’ mobile database, a list of fans who have opted to receive text messages from the club, which has increased from 6,000 to 90,000 subscribers over the last three years.

Robert Morris University, a nonprofit school in Chicago, has sponsored the team for the last three years but upgraded the relationship following the Stanley Cup. Its revamped sponsorship includes virtual signage during Blackhawks games this year.

“One of the things we look for is what the public is paying attention to and where the public we’re trying to recruit from is,” said Robert Morris President Michael Viollt. “It’s great when you have a program like the Blackhawks where all of the city is interested in it. That’s one of the problems with the Cubs and (White) Sox in the past is that the city is divided.”

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