Dec
16

Some Much Needed Hockey Exposure

octagon hockeyHockey 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.

  • http://sels.tmc.cooley.edu Ryan Ballard

    The NHL has always been at the forefront of new media. Just yesterday the Chicago Blackhawks organization won Mashable’s Open Web Award for Best Brand Use of Twitter. And “according to a Simmons Market Research study, NHL fans are younger, more educated, more affluent, and access content through digital means more than any other sport.”

    In addition, TV ratings have increased every year since 2005, unique visitors to NHL.com has gone way up, video starts on NHL.com have gone up over 100%, sales at the NHL Store in New York City are up 11%.

    I think the NHL is only gaining relevancy. It only seems like its losing relevancy because it doesn’t get much attention from mainstream media.

  • Jacob Hixson

    I agree with you Ryan. Things for the NHL are definitely looking up. Also, Darren, you really didn’t even mention in the article the most passionate markets, and there are many more than were noted. The NHL probably has the most passionate fan base out of any major sport in North America.

    • http://sportsagentblog.com Darren Heitner

      That is a very interesting point. I can think of some pretty passionate fan bases in the U.S. – Pittsburgh Steelers, Notre Dame football, Detroit Red Wings? Chicago Blackhawks?

      • Keith

        Everyone of those is from the rust belt. Go Wings!

        Hockey is 100x better than basketball. Your name on the back of the jersey (minus Crosby) doesn’t get you the no touch rule in basketball. Hockey has continuous play, is fast, has hits and fighting and now also more scoring.

  • Francis

    I only saw this article now, so I apologize for commenting late. The NHL has some of the most interesting contracts in terms of structure in all of sports. I am referring to the way they back load the money towards the end of the contract in order to meet cap restrictions. One needs to only read about the recent contracts given to Johnathan Toews and Patrick Kane of the Blackhawks to see what I mean. Duncan Keith is another example. There also is the question of whether Ilya Kovalchuk will remain a Thrasher.

    Does anyone on tihs site post on the NHL? I feel that would be a good contribution.

    As a Montrealer, i could probably talk hockey all day LOL!

    Just my two cents

    • http://sportsagentblog.com Darren Heitner

      We do have some NHL writers, including Scott Deady (more about his venture to become a successful NHL agent), Dan Furey, and Ryan Ballard. But the NHL contributions are rather sparse. Would you be interested in contributing some posts? Email me at heitner@gmail.com