By now, the majority of the major media in Canada has covered the VoteForRory campaign. It’s a pretty simple idea, that somehow has grown to epic proportions: vote an NHL journeyman player into the starting lineup of the NHL All-Star Game. It was fostered on the HFBoards and has since spread across the internet. Conventional media has resisted the idea, as analysts from Sportsnet, the Score and various radio and newspapers have weighed in on how inane the concept is and an affront to the traditions of the league. Unfortunately for them, this is the Internet, the new medium. Standard thinking doesn’t apply and neither does standard marketing ideas. I made this post on HFBoards a few days ago and since then the same ideas have re-appeared across the web as people are starting to realise how influential this could become:
Ever since the lockout, the main marketing campaign from the NHL/NHLPA is about how the game is for the fans.
This is especially true when it comes to the All-Star game, which at its core is just a meaningless game for the enjoyment of the fans as well as the side bonus received from sponsors and marketing.
With this being the first All-Star game since the lockout ended, it’s time to be truthful. The format has grown stale over the years.
Personally, I haven’t watched one since Gretzky retired (I think he got the car during his last game). Over the years, things have been added to try to add to the appeal, be it the skills competition or North America Vs. the World, but at the end of the day, the players sometimes dog it, the hockey has little substance or sizzle and I’d rather watch two teams battle it out for division lead then another 7-5 Eastern Conference snooze of a victory. And it’s not just hockey either, why do you think there are now dunk contests and home-run derbies? All-Star games are a great concept, but more often than not, they don’t result in the most thrilling show for the hardcore fan.
Ah yes, the hardcore fan. Most of the denizens of HFBoards fall under this category. Ignoring school or work to sit around and talk hockey. The dedicated fans have been treated a bit roughly over the years, they’ve stuck by the league through a lockout, multiple rule changes to attract a large fan base and expansion. And now, after a brief rise of interest, post lockout, we find that fan interest is waning, those casual fans are starting to go somewhere else on a Saturday night, watch something different on a Thursday. So now, it’s time for the hardcore fan.
This voting campaign is being done by different people for different reasons, to show that fan voting can be taken advantage of, to get a Canuck into the All-Star game, to get a guy who is an unorthodox selection into the game, to make a big joke of the NHL, or whatever other reason why. But when it all comes down to it, what we’re trying to do is to bring some good ol’ fun and excitement back into the game.
The NHL has worked hard to make the game of hockey more interesting since the lockout. So far, they’ve been relatively successful in that endeavour. The All Star game remains a bit of the exception. It’s for the fans, and no doubt all of us could sit down and make a list of who will play and probably get 3/4 of them right. The league is trying to package their most marketable players together, they can’t change that. But the fans can.
If Rory Fitzpatrick plays in the game, I’ll probably watch, just like I’ve watched, participated and voted in this movement since the beginning. For me, it will make the game a bit more interesting, to know that I was part of something that large, the ownership aspect of the whole thing. You always hear about people not voting in government elections because they don’t feel their vote matters. While Rory Fitzpatrick isn’t running for elected office, the mere knowledge that those 2, 20, 200 or 2000 votes you’ve filled in are actually doing something is very empowering.
If I was with the NHL, I’d support this, but of course not anymore moreso then marketing any of their other players. They should see this as an opportunity to grow the game, not a movement to make the league look absurb. The league needs to embrace this, to show that they are a sport community that really, honestly, listens to their fans. It’s one thing to just to say that in a marketing slogan, but this whole idea represents actually putting that process into real effect.
From a sponsorship standpoint, it’s a slam dunk. The exposure that Cold-FX is receiving is no doubt much more than either the NHL or CV Technologies could have expected when they signed the deal. Not only will this help future negotiations, but it can also be used to attract new sponsors.
So where does it all go after the All Star Game is over? Again, if I was with the NHL, and I wanted to capitalize on this fan movement, I would provide an outlet for this type of participation in the future. Something along the lines of a guaranteed write-in player. So you would have your normal six starters per team and then an extra vote per team for a write-in (like the form was set up earlier in the voting process). But add in a guarantee that top write-in candidate for each conference will also play.
That way, you once again take advantage of the write-ins but there’s also a larger likelihood of its effectiveness, and as such, the fans feel that ownership, that empowerment all over again. Not only that, but the league would then get to shine the light on some of the players that don’t have a big name, but are just as deserving as any perennial all-star. It would stimulate fans of particular teams to vote often for their #4 defensemen, or defensive forward and actually feel like they have a chance to get him in.
Presently the system is set up against the write-in vote. Sure, it’s present, but look at all the hard work that had to be undergone just to get Fitzpatrick into 5th. With a little work, and a dedication to being a fan-friendly league, the NHL can improve this process significantly.
In the end, it’s not about Rory, as much as it is about what Rory represents.
The next update for the voting results will be posted on Wednesday. Here’s a link to the HFBoards thread that keeps track of all the media and information with the VoteForRory campaign.
Keep an eye on this, it could get really interesting from here on out.