They lost their most marketable, albeit aging star; the cornerstone of their franchise to free agency. They are in an ultracompetitive marketplace which now includes the defending conference championships, a young rising team with new owners about to move into a building whose penchant is to tell stories very loudly, and to the south, a stalwart franchise that has owned a good part of the state for years and shows little signs of letting up. So if you are the New Jersey Devils what do you do? Everything you can, and that starts with finding every way to tie the community of both hockey fans and citizens of their state to the team, and find very way to tie the team to the community. Build the narrative, and there comes the loyalty.
Under their new ownership team and led by CEO Scott O’Neil, New Jersey made some of those strides last year. They went to great lengths to bring communities, whole towns and their leaders, to the Prudential center for themed nights which looked at everything from civic and academic involvement to athletic success, little of which had to do with hockey. Make the towns part of the fabric of the team, and loyalty will grow. This year, as training camp starts, the team is taking the other approach to compete the circle.
Their new campaign “We’re All Devils Inside,” will showcase a season of Devils’ narratives on and off the ice that shine a light on the many faces that comprise the Devils family. Featuring players, season ticket holders, fans, Devils and Prudential Center employees, as well as those communities throughout New Jersey, the campaign reveals how the Devils inhabit everyday situations. The campaign will live throughout Devils and Prudential Center assets, including Devils in-game presentation, arena branding, web and mobile, and will be featured on game tickets and promotional materials, as well as television, print and out-of-home creative.
The campaign is smart as it links the personal stories of everyone around the club to a particular town or neighborhood, and makes that connection more hyper-local than ever before. All of this is in addition to the massive digital affinity programs the club has built throughout the years, and will hopefully strengthen the ties and the reach of the Devils brand as really the only professional team that now calls the State home and uses just “New Jersey” in its name. As the team builds new and marketable stars off the ice, making communities feel a part of that growth is key, and the clear communication that we are all in this together should give fans with some disposable income an opportunity to venture to Newark and enjoy their hometown team.
Of course winning helps, but the use of this inward and outward affinity to the Devils brand is a smart way to manage the controllable assets and keep the interest alive and growing regardless of the results on the ice.