GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Coyotes are finished apologizing for their past. They are focused on a lengthy future in the Valley of the Sun.
That’s the overriding message of the team’s new, multi-faceted marketing and brand campaign, which rolled out in full force over the past week, following a 30-second broadcast spot that began airing on Sept. 8.
“We thought it was time for this message,” Coyotes co-owner, president and CEO Anthony LeBlanc said. “Certainly over our tenure as owners, but probably for the franchise’s entire existence in the Valley, there has never been a campaign that has lasted more than one year. We wanted a message that conveys our commitment to the Valley and our commitment to building a successful franchise with longevity in this market.”
Last year, the team hired John Pierce as its new chief marketing officer. Pierce spent the previous eight years as the managing director for marketing and productions for the U.S. Olympic Committee. Before that, he spent six years at Walt Disney Co. as director of marketing and creative content.
Following some exhaustive market research that included everything from focus groups to reading Mark Twain’s depiction of the coyote, Pierce and the national advertising and design firm, One Sixty Over Ninety and Sterling Brands, were ready for the launch.
“Our fans want us to be aspirational,” Pierce said. “They’re saying ‘tell us about what’s coming down the road. Tell us how and why we can be excited about our team.’ So we’re throwing some red meat to our pack.”
The team’s multi-channel campaign will consist of outdoor, digital, broadcast, theatrical, social and event experiences, and will honor the uniqueness of the Coyotes’ authentic and inclusive hockey culture. At the core of the campaign, however, is a simple message: The Coyotes want your kids.
To win over the future generation, the Coyotes will roll out a jersey exchange in January where kids can get the 2015 Coyotes jersey in exchange for their parent’s jersey from another team. The team is handing out vouchers until the new jerseys are in stock.
“We understand there are a lot of people in the Valley that come from the Midwest or New York or western Canada and we don’t imagine we’re going to change their allegiances,” LeBlanc said, laughing. “But we’ll be damned if we’re going to let them poison their kids’ heads.”
When the lights went down before the home opener on Saturday against the Pittsburgh Penguins, a Coyote’s eyes appeared on the screen and on smart phones and tablets all around the arena. That, too, was geared toward kids.
“We want kids to remember coming to a game; the music, the eyes, the whole experience,” Pierce said. “We have to remember that this is fun. Hockey is fun. Kids like to have fun, and when you see the experience through their eyes, it makes it fun for everybody.”
In addition to the jersey exchange, a mobile tour will travel to various events and festivals to market the game. The team has also launched the Part of the Pack program that showcases local youth teams during intermissions and forges a closer relationship between the franchise and local rinks around the Valley by providing on-ice clinics and Coyotes jerseys for all house league teams.
“We have named two players as ambassadors for each rink and they will make a certain number of appearances each year,” Pierce said. “We’re also going to move some of our team practices to each of the rinks over the next couple years. (Coach) Dave Tippett said the (Dallas) Stars did the same thing when he was there and he loved it. He’s on board with it.”
Pierce said market research has identified about 900,000 hockey fans in the Valley, with about 650,000 actively liking some aspect of the sport on Facebook.
“Only 237,000 of those like us so that’s a huge delta of people right in front of us who we want to follow us,” he said. “This is proud franchise and we’re one of just 30 NHL franchises. We have an amazing coach, an amazing GM, exciting young players and we’re ready for a great future.”