Hockey’s Back!

Hockey’s a big deal in Minnesota. Such a big deal that to help launch the Minnesota Wild during their debut 2000-2001 season, our agency founder penned this anthem declaring Minnesota “The State of Hockey.”  And yep, it’s still played before every game at the Xcel Energy Center.

So we’re all glad the CBA reached this weekend means the NHL will be ready to play by January 19. We’re fired up to see Zach Parise and Ryan Suter in Wild uniforms. And our client BAUER couldn’t be happier to have everyone talking about the game again.

But candidly, all of this is just a cheap excuse for me to show this awesome photo from our BAUER shoot last Summer.  Go Wild…but even though I live here now, Go Blackhawks!

Dennis Ryan, Advertising, Olson

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

On Blackhawks and Bandwagons

With the Blackhawks within one win of bringing the Stanley Cup back to Chicago for the first time in almost half a century, all sorts of fans have come out of the woodwork to embrace the team.  In every neighborhood of the city this weekend, despite the June temperatures, people walked around wearing authentic long sleeved jerseys or crisp new t-shirts.  This is a classic case of bandwagon-jumping.

Element 79 Chicago Advertising Dennis RyanAnd it’s a good, good thing.

Getting people to jump on a bandwagon requires exceptional persuasive skills, and the phenomenon is not limited to sports teams.  The best advertising does that too–it makes you want to join something, jump into a movement, grab your seat on the bandwagon…

“Sure they look like antifreeze, but everyone’s drinking Appletinis…”

“Actually, I do care which manufactured popstar wins on Idol so I’m gonna spend my change and vote!”

“Yes, they’re expensive to buy and costly to repair, but all the best kitchens have Sub Zero refrigerators.”

Creating the perception that any brand is part of something larger gives them staying power in our highly-distracted world.  The same emotion that makes a Hawks fan high five strangers as they leave the Stadium leads Jeep drivers to toss a salute when they pass other Jeeps.

And this behavior, more than anything else, argues for the convergence and strategic integration of social PR with mass advertising.  When you can promote an idea and then offer people ways to actively participate in that idea, you’re on your way to creating a bandwagon.

Hopefully the Chicago Blackhawks bandwagon will be jumping Wednesday night.  Come on…

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


The City of Chicago Is Going Blackhawks Crazy! More Proof Of TV’s Incredible Influence

It’s still fashionable in some circles to dance on television’s grave, despite that medium’s ongoing domination in daily reach and time spent.  All sorts of research companies and think tanks have banks of data about television’s ongoing relevance even in our web-driven world, but frankly, the most visceral example to me came as the Blackhawks swept San Jose to earn a berth in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Element 79 Chicago Advertising Dennis Ryan

Somebody Buy This Defenseman A Milkshake!

Despite being one of the original six, the Hawks have the longest drought between championships in all the NHL.  The last time they made it to the Finals was 1992 when they ran into the juggernaut of Scotty Bowman’s Redwings.  This year, they have Scotty’s son Stanley in their own front office but more than that, they have the power of TV broadcasting spreading the excitement.  And that makes all the difference.

In 2007, owner Bill Wirtz finally ditched his longtime policy of not broadcasting Blackhawks home games.  He defended that policy by claiming that airing home games would cheat ticket-buying fans.  Of course, from his businessman’s perspective, Wirtz’s real concern was lower attendance at the gate; wouldn’t people just watch at home if they could?

The real longterm effect of that policy was that as cable expanded and television coverage grew ever more effective with the advent of HD, the Hawks lost a generation, or perhaps two, of potential fans. Perhaps they wouldn’t buy tickets every night, but more would buy, if they cared.

Now, building off some amazing Blackhawks’ play for the Canadien and US teams in the Olympics’ Gold Medal final, and a strong finish and to the regular season and increasing excitement through the playoffs, people are jumping on the Hawks bandwagon.  Despite ongoing challenges like unspellable names (“Toews” or “Byfuglien” anyone?), the familiarity made possible through TV’s incredible reach has rallied the city behind a franchise we’ve long ignored.

Admittedly, I’m one of those Johnny-come-lately’s that long-suffering, there-through-the-thin-years fans view with skepticism…or worse.  But think of it this way: I grew up outside of Philadelphia during the era of the infamous Broad Street Bullies.  And they could be coming to town this weekend.

But let’s all be perfectly clear: Chicago is four wins away from their first Stanley Cup since 1962, but that should never be described as ‘just’ four wins away.  Go Hawks!

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

Harris Bank, The Chicago Blackhawks and the Joys of Postseason Production

Saturday night, the Vancouver Canucks come down to Chicago to kick-off the Western Conference semi-finals at the United Center.  Last year, the Blackhawks took this same series in six.

The timing couldn’t be better for Harris Bank, which has been a long-standing supporter of both the Hawks and the Bulls.  A couple of months back, hopeful that they would be making just this kind of running for Lord Stanley’s cup, we produced two Blackhawks themed ads for Harris’ “We’re Here to Help” campaign.  The Blackhawks did their part by winning the Central Division crown—their first division title in seventeen years.

Spots like this are a joy to make–you have a local location shoot in the main branch, you have the civic pride angle,  and you have a chance to produce something particularly timely.  It wasn’t a big budget, but it didn’t have to be: the Blackhawks promised us two players and we’d work with whomever they sent over.  Projects like these present a simple, honest challenge; as Charlie Chaplin wrote in his autobiography, “All I need to make a comedy is a park, a policeman and a pretty girl.”  Replace ‘park’ with ‘bank lobby,’ ‘policeman’ with ‘teller’ and ‘pretty girl’ with ‘bruising two way defenceman’ and that pretty much summed up the challenge for art director Lih Min Yuan, writer John Barry and producer Ali Dolan.  Working with the incredibly capable teams over at Resolution Digital Studios, they shot during business hours, juggling the constraints necessitated by bank security and NHL players closing out their regular season schedule.

Here’s hoping everything work out as well for Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and company as it did for us.  Go Hawks!

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

On The Olympics, Team USA, and The Joy of Bandwagons

I haven’t watched a full hockey game in thirty years.  But yesterday, I tuned the car radio and listened to the gold medal game between Team Canada and Team USA from the moment the puck dropped.  As soon as I got home, I joined my wife who was already watching it on NBC  (she hasn’t watched a full hockey game since never).  For sixty-seven minutes and forty seconds we followed the puck, cheered the precise agility of the skating, and marveled at the reactions of the goalies.  We loved the game.

So did tens of millions of other Americans and essentially, the entire hockey-mad country to our North (early ratings numbers here).  For a people who learn to skate before they walk, the Canadian hockey obsession makes obvious sense.  But Americans largely ignore the game.  Last year’s NHL All Star Game drew a measly .8, literally losing to reruns of Murder She Wrote in the ratings.  As far as popularity on TV goes, the NHL ranks tenth behind the NFL, NASCAR, College Football, College Basketball, MLB, the NBA, the PGA, Boxing and the UFC.  True hockey fans hope that the excitement generated by this thrilling game will bring new fans to the sport and they may be right.  I certainly plan to tune in to more Blackhawks games, given that our winger and center scored 40% of the goals in the Olympic final.

Jumping on a bandwagon can be a hill of fun.  That’s why so many of us do it.  The city-wide excitement championships generate is the single best aspect of professional sports.  Joining a majority and cheering in unison my be the total opposite of independent thinking, but it sure feels great.

So great, it would be nice not to consign that feeling to once every four years.  To that end, Go Blackhawks!

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79