For a great real-life example, let’s look at Brendan Shanahan, formerly an iconic player who is morphing into an even better programmer… and marketer now that he’s an NHL executive.
The NHL All-Star Game played last weekend is a case in point. Of all the all-star games, this one’s a turd. (OK, the Pro Bowl isn’t much better.)
But instead of blowing up the concept, Shanny’s prescription was to fix it and make it better. And he did that by tying into the jock/fan emotion and trying something potentially risky.
In every other all-star contest, the divisions essentially create the teams. If you play in the West, those are the colors you wear. And the coach simply looks down his bench to a team that is essentially picked by fans and/or the league.
But this time around, Shanahan went right back to the schoolyard. We’ve all been there. Two captains are appointed, and they pick the teams – or choose up sides.
All of those emotions that we all remember on the playing field are being shared by millionaire hockey stars, waiting to find out about their all-star pecking order.
And he adds, “It’s something that all of us, especially in hockey grew up doing. Stand back and the captains will pick teams.” In this case, Detroit Red Wings defenseman Nick Lidstrom, and Carolina Hurricanes forward Eric Staal.
And what are the outgrowths of this change in format?
- Fans are involved in the strategy. The Internet has been loaded with all kinds of tips, opinions, and tactics that fans and hockey pundits are bandying about for Lidstrom and Staal. With the old format, the fan was essentially out of the game, passively sitting in the arena.
- The players are engaged. Imagine how the last guys picked on both sides feel? Believe me, they haven’t felt that way in 20 years.
- It’s a cume-builder. The NHL is challenged to grow its fan base. This unique change in format is just the thing to bring new people into the game.
- It’s a ratings booster. The numbers are out and the NHL is saying that Versus ratings were up 33% over the last televised all-star game back in 2009.
- It’s relatable. This format brings an all-star game right down to fan level. And as consumers have a stronger desire for transparency and going backstage, this glimpse into a different side of the NHL is brilliant. Does it make for a better game? Who cares?
An NHL fan tweeted, the #NHL all star draft was pretty cool, enjoyed watching superstars sweating it out.
And the draft itself had no shortage of drama… and as it turned out, humor. One of the unintended consequences was that not only did the choosing of sides aspect of the game take the players back to their youths, but the fans got all the wisecracking that came with it. And it made for an entertaining show.
And unlike past years where nothing essentially happens leading up to the game, all of these questions started flying around bars, chat boards, and forums:
Who would be the first player chosen? (Eric Staal’s teammate, Cam Ward)
Who would be the last player picked? (Toronto’s Phil Kessel)
And would the Sedin brothers who have always played together finally end up on separate teams? (They were.)
The game itself was a typical blowout – 11-10 in favor of Team Lidstrom. But there were some surprises (a penalty shot in the NHL All-Star Game), not to mention that both Sedins survived being in different uniforms.
A great deal of credit goes to “PD” Shanahan for his vision and trusting his gut. It made for something very innovative for a league that sorely needs it - especially from an event that universally dull.
And as in radio where programmers know a good idea when they hear one, wonder if Shanahan's brainchild will end up shaping the future direction of some of these other "all-sstar" games?
Let's hope so.