Survey: NHL Working Overtime Via Social Media, In-Arena To Re-Engage Fans

By Barry Janoff

February 19, 2013: The NHL is operating in a lockout-shortened season, and the league's 30 franchises have been working overtime to reconnect with fans. And marketing partners are paying close attention.

According to a new survey, the Toronto Maple Leafs have done an overall job better than the rest, but the Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, Pittsburgh Penguins and several other teams have come up on top in specific social media and fan engagement activations.

The information comes from ticket broker TicketCity, which has unveiled its first NHL Fan Engagement Survey. The survey ranks each of the league's clubs to determine which are the most engaged with their fans both online and  ia in-arena and communtiy activations.

According to TicketCity, the survey is based on "an algorithm that evaluates fan activity in terms on home attendance, social media following, average ticket price and monthly search volume (including the Google search trends index)."

“The teams included on this list have managed to activate their fans in a variety of different ways,” Rafael Rivas, chief strategy officer for Austin-based TicketCity, said in a statement. “Whether a fan 'likes' a post on Facebook or decides to attend a game, top NHL teams leverage these experiences to continue to build their fan communities."

The NHL is in an especially precarious situation regarding connecting with loyal, casual and non-hockey fans. The league is currently playing a 48-game season, lost the entire 2004-05 season due to a lockout, played a 48-game schedule in 1994-95 and lost 30 games in 1991-92.

The survey put the Maple Leafs at No. 1 for several reasons: "Online search volume for the team is the highest in the NHL with over 300,000 global monthly searches," according to TicketCity. "Home games have long been one of the toughest tickets to acquire even during losing seasons, making Leafs tickets [one of] the most expensive in the league (at an average of $149 U.S.)"

The Winnepeg Jets have the highest average ticket price in the NHL at $210 (U.S.) per game; the Anaheim Ducks the lowest (an average of $36 per game), according to TicketCity.

Although slightly less social than other teams included in the Top Ten, more than 500,000 fans 'like' the Maple Leafs on Facebook, per the survey. The Maple Leafs also lead all NHL teams with a Google search trends index of 70. The St. Louis Blues come in second in that category with a 62.

The Detroit Red Wings lead the NHL with more than 1.34 million "likes" on Facebook – including 80,000 fans that are “talking about” the team on the social network (as of February 15). The Boston Bruins have 1.3 million "likes" and the Chicago Blackhawks 1.2 million.

By comparison, the NFL's Dallas Cowboys have 5.3 million "likes" on their Facebook page.

On Twitter, the Montreal Canadiens have the largest NHL reach with more than 350,000 followers, per the TicketCity study.

The Cowboys have more than 521,000 followers on Twitter. Tim Tebow has more than 2.1 million followers.

TicketCity said that the enthusiasm of NHL fans on social media is "easy to see when compared to other professional leagues like the NFL and Major League Baseball." While the general popularity of other leagues drives more Facebook “likes” on team pages, Facebook’s “talking about” numbers "reveal that NHL fans are more engaged with their team as fan communities three times their size," TicketCity explains.

Teams have tried several activations to rebuild connections with fans post-lockout. The Pittsburgh Penguins — No. 3  on the Fan Engagement list and No. 10 in the league for home game attendance — offered all merchandise available for half-price during the first four games of the season. According to TicketCity, "Fans responded by purchasing 8,680 jerseys and 19,950 T-shirts."

The Chicago Blackhawks have the highest average attendance in the NHL at 21,531, according to TicketCity. The Blackhawks have rewarded their fans with a 13-0-3 record to open the short season (through Feb. 19), tying the league record for most games to start a campaign without a loss.

"It’s those experiences that enable certain teams to maintain their success in the league post-lockout, regardless of performance," said Rivas.

TicketCity NHL Fan Engagement Survey

1. Toronto Maple Leafs
2. Montreal Canadiens
3. Pittsburgh Penguins
4. Boston Bruins
5. Vancouver Canucks
6. Detroit Redwings
7. Chicago Blackhawks
8. New York Rangers
9. Philadelphia Flyers
10. St. Louis Blues

See the full survey here.

NHL Return: Do Fans, Brands Care?

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