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SPECIAL: The NHL Utah case: A missed opportunity


Branding and Marketing: The NHL's decision to locate a franchise in Utah without naming the new team is a major branding mistake. A team name is essential for creating a strong brand identity and engaging fans from the start.


Fan Engagement: Early fan engagement is crucial. A team name and logo generate excitement and a sense of belonging among potential fans, which is vital to building a devoted fan base in a new market like Utah.


Market Impact: The broader implications show that a well-marketed team can attract sponsors, sell merchandise and increase ticket sales. The absence of a name negatively impacts these potential sources of income. Creating buzz around the team attracts local and national interest, raising the profile and profitability of the franchise.



Comparisons with other teams:


Seattle Kraken Example: When the NHL awarded an expansion franchise to Seattle in 2018, fans immediately became obsessed with the team's name, colors, logo and branding. This early excitement was crucial in building a strong fan base. Soon, fans suggested "Kraken" via social media and interactive portals. The team quickly adopted the name and successfully leveraged it, leading to high merchandise sales, high demand for tickets, and a passionate fan base. This demonstrates one thing: involving fans in the branding process and quickly capitalizing on their contributions can lead to successful marketing and strong brand marketing.


Likewise, Utah's NHL team involving fans in the nomination process could have quickly capitalized on their contributions. The team could have created a strong, engaging brand identity that resonated with the community, which would build long-term support. By learning from the Seattle example, Ryan Smith and his team could have avoided the pitfalls of a generic, unattractive brand and instead created a name and image that captivates and excites fans and potential business partners. , from the start.


Example with the PWHL: The Professional Women's Hockey League (PWHL) has encountered challenges with its branding approach. Despite high merchandise sales, notably during a sold-out game at the Bell Centre, the logos and jerseys were perceived as generic, even ugly. Although it takes time to develop products with partners like Fanatics and Adidas, these companies have the expertise to launch them quickly. More proactive branding efforts could have improved fan engagement and excitement. As we hear in an excerpt from the podcast mentioned below, companies have teams that work very close, if not, only for the NHL.


The survey could have been faster and completed at the beginning of June. Then, Adidas and Fanatics could have gone into production immediately afterwards. It’s a missed opportunity for the NHL and for Ryan Smith and it’s definitely not positive for the NHL.



Missed opportunity and broader implications: The situation reflects a broader trend of uncertainty in the NHL's strategic decisions. Similar to the arena woes of the Coyotes, who eventually moved to Utah, the lack of a clear name for Utah's new franchise represents another missed opportunity. The Coyotes' relocation process involved significant challenges, including a rejected proposal for a new arena in Tempe, leading to their temporary move to the Arizona State University Arena, with capacity of only 5,000 seats. This instability has impacted the team's ability to build a consistent fan base and ensure long-term financial stability. Proper planning would have ensured that at least some branded merchandise was available to fans at the team's launch, creating early excitement and engagement.


It continues for the NHL in the area of uncertainty with the situation regarding the name of the new Utah franchise.



Sources: BPM (Podcast)

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