Carolina Hurricanes’ Marketing: Out of Touch?


Are the Carolina Hurricanes’ marketing efforts tapping into the true potential of the local market?

The best word to describe the Carolina Hurricanes marketing efforts would be safe. With Doug Warf out as Vice President of Marketing, there has never been a better time to shake things up with fresh ideas. It is no secret that the Canes have had recent struggles with attendance.  Many will blame it on the poor performance on the ice; however, the Canes are playing their best hockey since 2009.  While attendance is growing, it has not reached the level it needs to be with the team competing for a wild card spot. Traditional markets can get away with weaker marketing campaigns, but the Canes do not have this luxury.  If the franchise wants to be sustainable in this area, an effort should be made to expand the reach of their current marketing strategy.

Thinking beyond Bobblehead Night.

Aggressive marketing campaigns seem to be a thing of the past, especially in professional sports.  The Carolina Hurricanes cannot operate in the same way as an Original Six team and expect to succeed. When it comes to marketing and advertising, this team should treat itself more like an AHL or MiLB than an NHL franchise. Minor League baseball has always been a benchmark for creative promotion. Whether it’s George Costanza Night or Speed Dating Night, the Canes front office needs to take their marketing to the next level.  Gimmicks are often frowned upon in professional sports but it is just the thing that Carolina needs.

The Hurricanes recently announced the new Homegrown Series, which features local beer, food, art, and music. While it is too early to measure the promotion’s success, it is a step in the right direction. Other promotions the Canes have publicized this season include Star Wars, Social Media, Teacher, and Military Appreciation nights.  More marketing efforts of this type would go a long way to help the Carolina Hurricanes grow their brand.

The Triangle is booming. How can the Canes capitalize?

The Canes do not take advantage of many other local opportunities that could provide an instant boost to attendance. Steve Malik, owner of the newly rebranded North Carolina FC, recently announced the team’s bid to be the first Major League Soccer team in the Carolinas. The Hurricanes did not show support for Malik’s efforts. With the growing popularity of soccer, the Canes would be wise to collaborate with Malik’s pursuit of the MLS. Collaboration between the two clubs would benefit each greatly.

Another local market the Canes need to tap into is the often prevalent Atlantic Coast Conference sports demographic. Some kind of “Rivalry Night” featuring familiar faces and traditions from local universities (NC State, Duke, UNC) would go a long way with residents in the area. It is common belief that the Hurricanes must compete with the ACC in the customer’s share of wallet. However, these institutions do not have to be competitors. Both should be able to not only coexist — but thrive together.

Making hockey more than just a family affair

It is no secret the Canes promote a family friendly atmosphere.  It is evident in the amount of family discounts offered.   Sadly, this isolates a large percentage of the population. More should be done to cater to the fans without children, as young professionals are flocking to the Triangle.  Sadly, the Canes largely overlook this demographic.

Sell the atmosphere and camaraderie.  These are the things that young professionals care about. The in-game theatrics lack things that appeal to this age group.  Switch up the music.  The DJ plays “Turn Down For What” at least once a game even though it is now four years old.  The Kiss Cam started in the 1980’s.  Unfortunately, it is still being used at every Carolina Hurricanes game.  The Canes need to update every aspect of the in-game entertainment to stay relevant in 2017.

If the Canes want to succeed in this market, they need to encompass this demographic, and not just those who are already hockey fans. Where the marketing department falls short is trying to sell the on-ice product rather than the experience of attending a game at PNC Arena. This is where the Carolina front office has been largely unsuccessful. Oh yea, and please bring back dollar hot dog night.