Hockey is really losing its relevance in the United States. Sure, there are passionate fans in Detroit, Chicago, and a few other northern states, but I can’t even find enough qualified hockey professionals to field an NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement panel at the 2010 UF Sports Law Symposium. The NFL, NBA, and MLB captures the majority of the attention of American fans, so the NHL has a greater need than the other Big 3 sports to think outside of the box to promote its teams and players. This is something that agents can help out with.
Octagon Hockey has taken the lead in this department. Allan Walsh (@walsha) is the Director of Octagon Hockey while Ben Hankinson (@benhankinson) is the company’s USA Director of Player Representation. Hankinson has a little over 1,000 followers; Walsh has three times as much. Both are active Tweeters and regularly post information about their clients. Sometimes those tweets are controversial. In early November, Walsh received some negative publicity for tweeting about the shortcomings of players who are not his clients, and who are competing with his clients for playing time. Overall, though, their strategy seems to be working well for the duo. They are doing whatever they can to put their clients names on the minds of those who care enough to follow hockey.
It helps that Walsh and Hankinson have the backing of an entire Digital Division. On April 9, 2009, I posted an interview with Jim DeLorenzo, VP of Octagon Digital. Here is a brief portion of that interview, which includes DeLorenzo’s response to a question.
Jim DeLorenzo: Well I think what you are seeing, more and more is that people are consuming their sports content online. Every athlete, every league, and every team are looking for ways to connect with their fans online and are shifting to different online platforms. For Octagon, one of my responsibilities is to help the agents find the right opportunities for their athletes in a digital medium. An example would be, if you go to NBA.com, they have videos running of Chris Paul. They have behind the scene videos chronicling what it is like to be a young, NBA super-star. Having NBA.com as a platform, to push those videos has a lot of benefits for Chris (Paul). That is one of the things I am doing out of the digital sector.
Basically, I am trying to find digital marketing opportunities for our athletes online and helping to provide both the athletes and the agents more of a consistent digital strategy.
DeLorenzo hooked Walsh and Hankinson up with a good understanding of Twitter before he let the agents out into the open seas, where it is tough (actually impossible) to retract statements after they are published. The agents also have the backing of the NHL. The league employs its own Director of Social Media, who’s name is Michael DiLorenzo (not to be confused with Octagon’s DeLorenzo). Under DiLorenzo’s watch, bloggers have gained access to press boxes.
The NHL seems to be quite accepting of its players using social media to connect with fans. Octagon Hockey is an example of a company willing to take advantage of the opportunity to get their agents and clients names out there in order to gain relevance in a sport that surely needs something to talk about.