Brand For Auston Matthews Has Room To Grow In U.S. With Maple Leafs' Marketing Strategy
Maple Leafs C Auston Matthews has a chance to be a "once-in-a-generation star," and though he has the NHL's fourth-best-selling jersey, the next "great face of American hockey remains hidden above the border," according to Emily Kaplan of ESPN THE MAGAZINE. Matthews was the Maple Leafs' lone All-Star last season, but his image "never appeared on a billboard inside the city." That is "very much by the Leafs' design." Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello believes the "face of the franchise is, and always will be, a royal blue image of a leaf." The team's "restrained marketing approach to its transcendent talent is all the more remarkable given how much it values Matthews' performance." Matthews said, "In America, if I'm not at an ice rink, nobody knows who I am." Kaplan notes if the NHL wants a "crossover celebrity, the type of athlete with dazzling skills who reaches new demographics, it should almost thank central casting for sending along Matthews." Leafs D Morgan Rielly said, "People always stop him and ask for pictures. He always stops, but he's reserved every time. It doesn't seem natural for him. He hasn't gotten used to it; he really doesn't like the attention that much." Matthews has "appeared in exactly one commercial ... for a hockey stick." He is sponsored by Bauer, and "that's about it." Kaplan: "Matthews will be a star, but the question is whether he'll fit the NHL's mold or develop into something of his own making" (ESPN THE MAGAZINE, 10/30 issue).
GOING NEXT LEVEL: THE HOCKEY NEWS' Ken Campbell wrote Matthews has the "potential to be the first actual superstar" the Leafs have ever had. Campbell: "To me, superstardom is reserved only for those very special franchise players and there usually aren’t any more than four to six playing in the league at any time." If Matthews can "stay healthy and productive, he could take this franchise to places it has never been before" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 10/16).