Minor league hockey usually doesn’t get the credit for being innovative and effective promoters much like their baseball brethren are. Occasionally a crazy jersey promotion pops up, or something edgy around a controversial celebrity, but by and large they probably don’t get the credit they probably deserve. Maybe it’s because there are too many things going on in the winter, hockey at the lower levels isn’t as galvanized under the NHL umbrella as baseball and MLB are, or the fact that small town hockey is not as much a rite of passage as a summer night outdoors with baseball is in the U.S., bit hockey does probably have more than its share of great promos and stories and leadership as baseball does.
Here is a great example from this past week, a promo pulled off by the Central Hockey League’s Missouri Mavericks designed to help those less fortunate and probably engage some new fans down the line. Although it was billed as a “first ever,” some fashion may have been tried by other sports in recent years. Regardless it was well done, well-orchestrated and hopefully well supported on Thanksgiving Eve.
The promo was called “Pay As You Go.” And it was aimed at providing less fortunate fans and their families, the opportunity to attend a professional hockey game. The club teamed up with Community Services League, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Kansas City, and the Independence School District to offer low cost tickets to members of the community who have never have the opportunity to attend a game.
The grabbed a local sponsor, Firehouse Subs, to donate a FREE sub voucher to all fans that purchase a full price ticket, or pay above the regular ticket cost. Fans that “pay it forward” by donating or paying more than the regular ticket price are helping to cover the cost of tickets for those unable to purchase full price tickets, and ensuring the future of this event in years to come.
The promotion is the latest in a series of Kansas City-based moves by clubs like Sporting Kansas City of MLS and the Kansas City Royals to be leaders in sport. Now while one can’t probably expect MLB or even NHL teams to try this on a large scale, it is an intriguing way for a college or a team with distressed inventory in seating to enhance a brand partnership, do some solid philanthropic work, and get some buzz especially in an era when affordable ticket prices for most sports events are beyond the reach of the hardworking fan on a consistent basis. It would also be interesting to see all of the CHL do a designated weekend with such a night, tied to a community service initiative that really brings impact. Yes teams will always do the usual coat drives, toy drives, food drives etc., but “Pay As You Go” brings people out for a night to forget about their issues and enjoy a fun family event. Are there chances for abuse of a system like this, or for some fans to complain who had paid in advance? Maybe. But brands like Honest-T have tried such an idea at pop up stores, where people pay for a drink in the heat of the summer at whatever price they can afford, and it has been a very solid success. It is not something you can do every night of course, but a once a year, well timed promotion could have some great effects for teams looking to become more embedded in the community and to find some new fans. Maybe there is a section an MLB team could do for one night to test it…maybe a charitable partner like the Salvation Army or a CPG brand or a regional sub shop steps up with vouchers to reward those to help support, like Firehouse did for the Mavericks.
Regardless, the “Pay As You Go” night is one to watch, and a great example of minor league hockey doing major league promotions, especially going into the holidays.