SBJ/May 21-27, 2012/Franchises

Rangers’ Cup chase runneth over with activation

As the Long Island Railroad train pulled into Penn Station before Game 1 of the NHL’s Eastern Conference Finals last week, the conductor said over the PA, “Welcome to the home of the Rangers.” On other LIRR trips to Manhattan, the Rangers’ goal celebration song has been played.

Rangers great Rod Gilbert shaves MSG Sports President Scott O’Neil as part of Norelco’s playoff beard promotion.
Photo by: AVI GERVER / MSG PHOTOS
When MSG Sports President Scott O’Neil hears these tales in emails from friends and colleagues, he grins proudly. It means the hockey franchise is making its mark in New York. Ever since the Rangers defeated Philadelphia in this year’s Winter Classic, grabbing a stranglehold on first place in the East, the Rangers have been full on in their marketing for a hopeful run in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

“You never know for sure how a sports team will do,” O’Neil said, “but we were confident the Rangers were clearly heading in the right direction. We set a goal of having unparalleled activity in the playoffs.”

Activation to date has run the gamut, from traditional to creative to out-there. Rally towels, sponsored on different nights by Chase and Geico, formed a flurry of white when the Rangers took the ice at Madison Square Garden for the first two conference finals games against New Jersey last week. For Game 4 at Prudential Center tonight, Chase is sponsoring a viewing party at the Garden, with a pregame skate included. A playoff beard-a-thon — sponsored by Norelco and an effort in which O’Neil is participating — has raised more than $100,000 for the Garden of Dreams Foundation, the arena’s charity for children.

And before Saturday’s Game 3 in New Jersey, Delta Air Lines was slated to host the first flight from LaGuardia Airport in New York to Newark. Eighty passengers, including what Delta calls “high-value customers” and “high-value tweeters,” along with youngsters from Garden of Dreams, were expected to be onboard.

The plane may have been scheduled to be in the air for only 10 minutes, but the buzz was intended to endure.

“We thought we’d never, literally, be able to get this off the ground,” said Annika Schmitz, Delta’s manager of promotional marketing. “We’re ecstatic about it. That’s the kind of activation we want with our sports teams — creating incredible experiences for customers and fans.”

Of the flight, O’Neil said with a laugh, “Of course, it’s kind of crazy, but that’s sort of the point, right? It’s fun.”

The goal of all this activity is more than a spiritual renewal of the Rangers’ existing fan base, which filled the Garden to 100 percent capacity this season.

“We want to captivate the casual sports fans, too,” O’Neil said. “We want them to know something special is happening with this franchise in our city.”

As part of its Rangers deal, Chase is sponsoring a T-shirt giveaway for all fans at the first game of each round of the playoffs. Chase, the Rangers and the team’s fans hope that activation continues for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

As for Delta, the airline is looking at a potential dream Final.

“We have big partnerships with the Rangers and the L.A. Kings,” Schmitz said. “How phenomenal would that be?”

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