“People underestimate the power of nostalgia. If baseball can use it to get people to care about that worthless sport, then I can use it to get my siblings to care about the farm. Nostalgia is truly one of the great human weaknesses. Second only to the neck.” – Dwight K. Schrute
In recent years professional sports have been using emotion and nostalgia as core themes for their marketing campaigns. Sports can be fast paced, rough and gritty. However, when it comes to recent marketing initiatives, leagues and brands seem to be taking a softer more gentle approach. They’re starting to create emotionally driven campaigns that appeal to our sense of nostalgia. For the purpose of this blog post I have chosen to focus on hockey. This trend applies to other sports as well. Baseball and golf have both very recently created successful, emotionally driven campaigns.
The NHL makes less money than any of the other three major North American sports leagues. One thing the NHL has going for them is their playoffs. The Stanley Cup is often called the most difficult trophy to win and even fans of other sports and other leagues often admit that the NHL playoffs are the best and most entertaining playoffs in pro sports. The NHL knows the Stanley Cup playoffs is their golden ticket, that one time period each year where the game is being played at the highest level. This represents the greatest opportunity to build their brand and increase their fan base.
In the past, marketing campaigns for hockey have often relied on the pure physicality, dynamism and technical expertise of the game. Hockey is a highlight reel sport, there are so many ways to score a goal or make a play, that the game itself creates such exciting, impactful moments. The NHL has been very progressive and creative in shifting to more emotionally laden marketing campaigns. Of course what underlies all campaigns is the business of increasing revenue. These emotionally centric campaigns have served to attract a much broader fan base, a fan base that’s not necessarily knowledgeable or passionate about hockey. The beauty of these campaigns is that you can have little technical knowledge of the game and despite that, be swept away. How do they do it? The answer is here.
What’s extraordinarily compelling about this video is that you can clearly see that there is zero information, or exposure to the actual game of hockey. In many ways there’s nothing more innovative then to market a sport without actually showing the game. Yet, as you view this video it emotionally resonates with all of us because it portrays all our hopes and dreams and passion, that one extraordinary moment when our dreams are realized. This gets at the very core of human nature, whether it’s our own personal dreams or dreams for our family or children.
This campaign has another hook and that’s nostalgia. Once again this isn’t about skill or highlights, it’s about the journey and story of these players who have been in the league for years. They made history by grasping their life long dream towards the end of their career. This campaign appeals to die hard fans who are passionate about the history of the sport and the players. As a fan you can watch the video and remember vividly all those moment of players finally capturing hockey’s ultimate trophy, all the moments in their careers that lead up to that, all the moments they came so close only to fall short. It’s a nostalgic look back in time.
This campaign is so great because of it’s broad based appeal. It’s not an inside joke that you only get to be a part of if you’re a fan. The level of intense emotion shown by every player speaks a universal language understood by all. It transcends hockey and touches a personal and emotional chord for everyone.