Panthers-Rosenhaus Campaign Achieves First Goal, Will it Lead to $$$?

Chalk up a marketing win for the Florida Panthers. Whenever a team gets attention for a marketing campaign before it even starts, you concede the achieved the brand awareness aspect of marketing. Officially launching next week, Florida enlisted NFL super agent Drew Rosenhaus to negotiate lower ticket prices for its fans in a series of spots. Rosenhaus leaked the news via Twitter this week, starting the viral spread of the campaign.

On the surface, it’s a great move by Florida. Many teams are lowering ticket prices in this economy, but they found a clever way to differentiate themselves from other teams and engage fans in the process. Rosenhaus is a great pick by the time because sports fans universally know him, has the reputation of a ruthless negotiator, and his high profile status within the media guarantees word will spread.

What remains to be seen is if the campaign will lift ticket sales? Florida has made the playoffs just three times in its 15-year existence. This is the NHL, where seemingly half the league makes the postseason and they have been there just 20% of the time, and not since 2000. That’s remarkable ineptitude for hockey. Throw in the fact they play in a market with fickle sports fans in general, and that nobody will ever mistake Miami for a hockey town. It’s a tough sell. One of the toughest in sports.

Intuitively, the marketing effort will definitely generate buzz, though I’d be surprised if it sold many tickets. In the end, the team, the players, and the sport usually sell tickets – Florida has all three working against it. One other key factor is how much they decide to lower the price – how effective Rosenhaus is in negotiating.

This would be an interesting case study in marketing ROI. Measuring the ticket sales and ticket revenue (since price is changing too) lift that Florida achieves compared to a hockey team that lowers it price by a similar percent without the splashy advertising serving as a control group, and for further analysis find a team that executed a similarly high-profile campaign but raised ticket prices. We’d also need to control for off-season acquisitions and projected team success relative to last year. It would be an interesting study to conduct nonetheless.

Florida’s execution of the campaign could have an effect. If they make it truly interactive, it becomes more enticing. For instance, they could release a new You Tube video of the negotiations each week, and fans then have the choice of buying tickets at the last offer price made by the team in that negotiation with Rosenhaus, or they can wait until the next video comes out to see what the new price is. Another way is not to announce when new videos are released and reward the first few buyers with special deals that buy immediately after a new negotiation is released.

Unless the price change is significant, this will likely end up as a memorable campaign that ends up short on results simply because the Panthers have been a bad team for a long time and Miami will never support hockey. Some forces are too great to overcome.

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