Some companies use promotional products for brand awareness. But that's not why the Vancouver Canucks National Hockey League (NHL) team uses them.
"Fans don't see us as someone who makes a product," Mark Raham, creative director for the popular sports team, told audience members at the ASI Power Summit Canada. "They see us as an entity that creates memories. So they want us to give them a product at a special event that they can bring home and display, and tell people, 'I was there.'"
Hockey fans always have wanted ad specialty items that are "about the experience," Raham said, and millennials are even more that way. "When people think of a typical sports audience, they're picturing older white males, but that isn't the case with today's fans," he said. Canucks fans average about 20 to 30 years old, and there are almost as many women at the games as men.
"These fans don't want to collect a bunch of stuff. They want pieces that commemorate a special moment in their lives," he says, "such as the retirement of a favorite player or a big playoffs win." And sometimes, the Canucks marketing team has to do some quick thinking when those special moments happen. One example: A few years ago, the Canuck players turned up at a holiday charity event purposely wearing hideous holiday sweaters. Fans loved it, and photos of the players in their outrageous outfits (picture Rudolph with a blinking nose) went viral. Raham and his team saw an opportunity, and immediately ordered scarves and other apparel featuring the players in their outfits. "People went bananas," he said, "and now these things have become collector's items."
Click here to see an interview with Raham just after his Power Summit talk.