Sticks in hands. An interesting phrase when you think about it. It’s a very simple notion, but one that can have profound impacts on a broader scale. The question is how do effectively do this? There are a variety of strategies to do this, but how do you figure out what will be the most effective? That in and of itself is a challenge.
Let’s look at the NHL as one option. As an organization it’s a good idea to look for ways to connect customers with your brand in unique, but similar ways. One way that NHL teams have approached this is to go out into the community. They have staff dedicated to developing relationships with community organizations and schools to connect and give back. NHL players will go to schools with sticks to run a program, or they’ll connect with Special Olympics to support athletes and programs. There’s a good chance you’ve seen many of these showcased online. It’s a great way to build rapport with people, give back, and just be good community partners. At the same time they’re building their brand through goodwill. This can be a powerful tool that benefits the organization beyond the sport, but still drawing things back to the sport.
Over the past two years a number of NHL teams have begun to use Floorball as means to connect with the community. The goals may be somewhat different for each team, but they’re looking for a way to connect a hockey like stick game to get kids active, but also to connect them to the hockey world. They get sticks branded in their logos, and will host specific events. The Florida Panthers have gone a set further by partnering with the Boys and Girls Club to run a league, which the Panthers then host a year end tournament for the players. This is all done in the off-season when more time and space can be dedicated to an aspect like this, but still gets their brand to potential customers. Can we specifically correlate a fan base of kids who grow up to participate in hockey, or at least support hockey? It’s certainly possible, and would make for an interesting research project for someone willing to coordinate it. The raw data collected from a project like that could potentially help confirm the idea that sticks in hands correlates to long term involvement in hockey, or hockey like sports in the future.
The notion of sticks in hands is simply the gateway to the overall brand. I think that Floorball programs built buy organizations can effectively serve multiple purposes. However, simply doing the program missed out on the long term potential. Going to schools and doing these events is useful and frankly a great thing for the community. However, if resources and partnerships were developed to encourage Floorball leagues within local communities it would have the potential to help connect players who will never play hockey to still have a connection to hockey organizations. There are far more people not playing hockey who can be supporters of teams and hockey programs, but they can get lost because they have nothing connecting them to it. I don’t see too many floor hockey leagues running throughout the US, but I bet we would quickly see more Floorball leagues or instructional programs develop if NHL teams put some resources into helping develop them and build off of that. For a return on investment this model can be easily repeated anywhere, and that brings significant value to all involved. The NHL is one example of how this could work, there are others. My challenge is how can you get sticks in hands of players in your area?