The NHL Was Not Afraid (SXSW Review)

Image adapted from Design Mind

Music and sports are two of the most unifying and emotional forces around. Without much effort, both create an intensity every other industry craves. Put those two forces together, united with the same goal and the result is epic.

The weeklong SxSWi conference, which ended last week in Austin, was devoted to innovators from every level. Those that have stories and advice to share, as well as those trying to take in as much information possible. The Sports and Music – Perfect Harmony Panel (#SXSWSportsMusic) led by Adrian Amodeo (Marketing Director, Interscope Records), Bill Bergofin (SVP, Marketing & Creative Services, Versus), and Brian Jennings (Executive VP of Marketing, NHL) was a case study on how the relationship was created between Eminem, the Detroit native, and the NHL. This case study and similar ones have become extremely beneficial as teams, fans, and businesses alike try to connect on new levels.

If you build it, they will come.

The NHL built a social platform for their fans to interact. They were the first league to create a fan page on Facebook and have led the pack with social media and fan interaction from day one; they just get it. Currently there are 1,398,571 fans, many of which actively use the site. Other leagues are relatively conservative in comparison, and operate under the old school of thought that too much change is a bad thing. The NHL is innovative and proactive and not afraid to take a chance.

Over the years, the NHL has made a conscious effort to study their fans, which led them to their ultimate goal – making people fans of hockey. Not just their favorite team. Or venue. By making people fall in love with the sport as a whole, you are creating a community that encourages fans to actively participate and give them that sense of belonging and pride we all desire.

I’m not afraid to take a stand
Everybody come take my hand
We’ll walk this road together, through the storm
Whatever weather, cold or warm
Just let you know that, you’re not alone
Holla if you feel that you’ve been down the same road

The above lyrics to Eminem’s song Not Afraid fit the mentality of the NHL and their fans and just seemed like a logical pairing.

Interscope Records reached out to NHL execs when Eminem’s single “Not Afraid” was about to drop. The courting between the two groups was somewhat unconventional as it was virtually unchartered territory they both willingly ventured into. As with most things in business, there has to be a need, and the timing has to make sense. Luckily for Eminem’s camp, the timing couldn’t have been better as the NHL responded by quickly creating a plan to use the song in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Fan interaction and emotions aside, the business model behind the collaboration was genius. Because of their affiliation with the NHL, Eminem and Interscope were able to tap into the Canadian market much quicker as the fans embraced all things hockey.

The NHL gets 15-17 million unique people per month engaging with their brand. What rockstar wouldn’t want to be a part of those numbers and endless touch points? And Eminem certainly didn’t come to the table nameless. We are in a world where it’s no longer enough to show a hockey game on TV. Fans want more and they are of the mindset that it’s easy to do more. Sports and music are about branded entertainment and the added value you as an industry can provide to keep them tuned in. By making it personal and heightening the intensity levels, you are getting them to take it a step further and voice their opinions on networks like Twitter and Facebook. This is a prime example of the creative and willing minds at the NHL, Interscope Records and Versus working together to meet the demands of the always evolving landscape that is entertainment. The collaboration introduced many hockey fans to Eminem’s music for the first time and in a memorable way.

It will be interesting to see the sports and music worlds continue to operate together under the same venue as more partnerships like this one are forged. Stay tuned.