Is there a professional team in the corridor from Philadelphia through Connecticut that has made more positive branding strides in the last year than the New Jersey Devil. While the Red Bulls make noise with a new stadium and Thierry Henry, the Nets constantly push for unique promotions and space during their transition, the Yankees make a huge splash with Hero Week and even Philly-area teams like the Union build fan support, the Devils continue to grow both on the ice and off, a combination which each of the others (well, except the Yanks of course) lack.
Latest case in point was this past week, when the team announced a tremendous brand extension by bringing minor league affiliate games to Atlantic City, and then donating some of th. tickets to the New Jersey Department of Children and Families for use by children in foster care in the Atlantic City area. The same week the team was holding some additional awareness events in their growing territory in northern Jersey, which continues to show how and where the potential for growth and support lies statewide. Would it be great if this could be combined with a settling of the Kovalchuk contrac.? Absolutely. However even with that bump, the team is correctly positioning itself for the casual fan in every corner of a sports crazy state, with no other team to truly call its own.
Also in a time when every organization and group is taking its turn dumping on Atlantic City, the Devils rode in with support and a rallying cause. Yes it is only a few games in the darkness of winter, but it gives the businesses in Atlantic City, as well as its residents, something to point to as a positive and could lead to more in the future.
What Lou Lamoriello built as a great product on ice was never before matched in marketing or grassroots support, and that has now changed. The result could be a great confluence of bith superior product, fan and grassroots support that maybe can make the Devs more of a model for professional sports in the area than any other team, if all falls together. Are there ways to g.? Yes, there still needs to be more of an in-season connection to the current players and their stories to the casual fan, and not just to the Devils brand overall. There is still potential for great brand growth to the west toward the Pennsylvania border, and definately into Rockland County, which has always been a hockey hotbed.
However the move to Atlantic City, an area the Flyers once controlled and may not any more, is a great one, and another sign that the Devils are continuing to make smart strides at a time when the marketplace is wide open for aggressive growth.