The New Jersey Devils have spent the offseason telling the world that “new” is the buzzword around their home, The Prudential Center in Newark. As their cross river rivals the Rangers continue to improve on the ice, and the upstart Islanders move into their first season at Brooklyn’ Barclays Center coming off their best season in years, New Jersey has its business challenges; they are third in a three team market in terms of production on the ice, and must continue to battle years of lack of promotion of their star players to continue to gain market share for their new owners.
Now there is no doubt the team has made strides in and around New Jersey since their ownership change in terms of brand identity. Even in the final years of owner Jeff Vanderbeek, the team made digital and social engagement a priority, and they came, and continue to be, one of the most digital savvy franchises in the teach-friendly world of the NHL. In recent years they have extended their brand even more into the community, building affinity town by town. Now with new leadership on the ice, the latest move being longtime GM Lou Lamoriello’s departure for Toronto last week, the team will probably be more aggressive in marketing their stars and personalities, especially their younger, rising stars, than ever before, and the offseason is no time to waste in doing so.
This week the team came up with another novel way to engage, one which we have suggested minor league baseball teams do as a promotion for years. They announced that fans can submit designs that goaltender Cory Schneider will use for his mask for the 2015-16 season. The team provided a template for submission from any fan, with five finalists, selected by Schneider, to be announced Monday, August 10. Each finalist will receive a Cory Schneider autographed photo. The Grand Prize Winner will be decided by the goalie from among the five finalists and announced Friday, August 14, giving the contest an extra week of life as well.
The winner will receive a series of prizes, but more importantly, will become a living, breathing example of a fan to athlete tie for all to see for a full season. Contest like these are sometimes hard to manage, as designs can take on both the sublime and the bizarre, and sometimes, if a fan vote is involved, there can actually be some brand damage brought in, especially when you are dealing with the elite marks of any of the five major league teams.
This contest, with the wearer actually involved in the process, has great buy-in from all, and will give creative fans a unique platform of self-expression. Maybe throw in a charity tie at the end of the season where the mask will be auctioned off, and you have a philanthropic angle in the mix too.
Mask painting is certainly not original, but the designs usually are, and the Devils certainly can score some points with what is the first, and certainly not the last, example of an aggressive player to fan marketing program just beginning to unfold as the club begins its climb back up the standings. A simple idea scores off the ice during a hot summer.