SBJ/June 4-10, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

L.A. Kings' run good for business, even in Canada

The Los Angeles Kings have reaped the immediate benefits of the team’s run to the Stanley Cup Final. The most recent indication is the Kings’ signing of Travel Alberta last week as their official travel destination.

Kings owner AEG would not give a value or range for the sponsorship, but the contract is “multiyear, at a significant level, one of the biggest the Kings have ever had,” according to an industry source.

The agreement gives Travel Alberta in-arena signs, online exposure, in-market activation and sponsorship of the Kings’ holiday ice rink at L.A. Live. There are also plans to offer a road trip to fans to attend Kings games in Edmonton and Calgary.

The Kings’ dominance in the first three rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs coincides with a renaissance in the team’s business. These days, it’s good to be the Kings.

“It helps to close a deal when you’re in the Stanley Cup Final,” said Luc Robitaille, a Hall of Fame left wing for the Kings and now the team’s president of business operations. “A lot of businesses want to activate with us. It’s a good feeling because we’ve been working to this point, rebuilding on and off the ice, for a few years.”

Through Game 2 of the Final, the Devils had played 10 playoff games at Prudential Center, which a source said grossed $22 million in ticket sales.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
The Travel Alberta deal was completed after a few months of discussion, just before the start of the Stanley Cup Final between the Kings and New Jersey Devils, which began last Wednesday.

“Hockey and Alberta are a natural fit,” said Travel Alberta CEO Bruce Okabe. “The fan base, properties and venues involved in this partnership put us right in the target sweet spot of where our customers in California live, work and play.”

MORE KINGS COMMERCE: The Kings are also thriving beyond sponsorships. The team has sold more than 2,000 new season tickets since the start of the playoffs. Subscriber renewals for next season are at 95 percent. The team has closed out partial plans. By the time the Kings’ season is completed this month, the team expects season tickets to be sold out, leaving only select tickets available for individual purchase.

“As sports marketers, we dream of runs like this by our teams,” said Chris McGowan, COO of the Kings and team ownership group AEG Sports. “We’re really proud of the fact that we’ve worked hard all year, into the spring, and have been able to capitalize. We could very well be looking at all of our games being sold out next season.”

The Kings have sold more than 2,000 new season tickets since the start of the playoffs.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
While the bandwagon has become packed to capacity during the playoffs, the Kings insist they will not forget the people with them at the beginning of the rebuild. The Kings’ corporate staff hosted corporate partners at road games in each round of the playoffs.

“I think of someone like Sal Ferrara, from Ferrara Pan Candy,” Robitaille said of the company that produces Lemonheads, among other treats. “My old teammate, Bernie Nicholls, introduced me to Sal years ago. I asked Sal to take this ride with us at the beginning, when we started to build a roster of talented players. You cannot thank sponsors like him and the longtime season-ticket holders enough. We are working with all of our long-term partners to make sure they are back … and happy.”

DEVILS MAY CARE: A lucrative run to the Final by the New Jersey Devils could not possibly have come at a better time for the franchise.

Through Game 2 of the Final against the Kings on Saturday, the Devils had played 10 playoff games at the Prudential Center in Newark and sold out all of them. According to an industry source, the 10 playoff games grossed more than $22 million in ticket sales.

Faced with mounting debt, owner Jeff Vanderbeek has been seeking to line up investors to raise new capital. While there has been no announcement of a new partner for Vanderbeek, his team’s winning ways have resulted in big business.

Playoff-specific sponsorships created more than $1 million in revenue for the Devils.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
Preferring to keep the focus on the positives of the franchise, Rich Krezwick, the president of Devils Arena Entertainment, declined to discuss Vanderbeek’s plight. However, Krezwick was ebullient over what the team’s magical run has meant to the bottom line.

“This has been special,” Krezwick said. “You see all the hard work that the hockey team management, coaches and players put in, and you see the efforts of the business staff. It’s so rewarding to see it all come together.”

According to Krezwick, the Devils have sold more than 1,500 new full-season-ticket accounts in the last month. Season-ticket renewals have already surpassed last year’s rate of 84 percent, and the team expects to be over 90 percent by the end of the Cup Final.

By offering their ticket holders, sponsors and suite holders, Facebook fans and Twitter followers the opportunity to buy playoff tickets first, using a protected password, the Devils have managed to fill The Rock primarily with their fans. Supporters of their close rivals, the Flyers and Rangers, found tickets in New Jersey to be scarce. That was not the case in previous years.

In addition, the Devils sold playoff-specific sponsorships that grew in value for both sides as the team advanced through each round of the playoffs. Companies including Ford and Atlantic Business Systems signed on, creating more than $1 million in revenue for the Devils.

“There’s no better time to be doing business than the playoffs,” Krezwick said. “For our fans and our organization, it’s the best time of the year.”

ALL SYSTEMS GO
: Mission Control, the Devils’ fan-driven social media initiative, was firing on all cylinders when the team hosted the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final.

Located in converted storage space in the Prudential Center, Mission Control was created a year and a half ago by the franchise with 25 volunteer fans to obsessively update the team’s blog, Twitter feed and Facebook page, and monitor all talk about the Devils in social media.

In the buildup to Games 1 and 2, Mission Control promoted fan events outside and inside arena, along with general Devils Fever, and used Instagram to send out photos of the fan pandemonium.

Led by Mission Control, the team has seen strong growth in its Twitter following during the playoff run. When it launched in January 2011, the Devils had just over 5,000 Twitter followers. A year later, the number grew to 40,000. When the puck dropped on Wednesday for Game 1, the total was at 83,172.

The corporate sales staff has also monetized the social media center and believes it can create $2 million in revenue by the end of next season.

INTERESTED OBSERVERS: The NHL’s executive vice president of marketing, Brian Jennings, took in Game 1 with Chief Marketing Officer Matt O’Toole of Reebok, the league’s official outfitter. The two discussed how their brands can take their partnership to the next level and connect with more fans.

“Innovation, consumer-centric product and servicing the retailer with enhanced brand value will continue to remain a focus,” Jennings said.
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