Tom Dundon: One Year Owner Report Card (Part One)

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Promotions and Marketing

It was no secret that Peter Karmanos was pinching pennies as the owner of the team. For many it seemed like once the team lifted the cup in 2006, Karmanos only cared about turning a profit. Even with attendance taking a nose dive year after year since missing the playoffs in 2010 and onwards, the team remained in the black. Concessions were closed, parking prices rose, there were no big free agency splashes, and anywhere a penny could be saved, it was from marketing budgets to promotions for the fans.

When Tom Dundon came to power, things changed. I made a trip to PNC Arena in the off-season after Dundon had purchased the team and took a behind-the-scenes tour. There, I got to see and speak with some of the marketing and promotions teams that work tirelessly year round. I asked them how much more freedom they had under Dundon than under Karmanos. The unanimous answer was “a lot” and it is showing.

The first problem that the teams were tasked to tackle by the new owner has been attendance. It is no secret that the Hurricanes had the worst attendance in the league before Dundon took over. They had missed the playoffs for eight straight years. The most exciting player on the roster was only in his second year in the league. Finding any mention of the only pro team in the capital city of North Carolina was difficult outside of PNC Arena. The marketing and promotions teams had their work cut out for them. Thanks to the free reign given to them by Dundon, they delivered.

Almost as soon as Dundon took over, the promotions started to roll in. In a game against Ottawa the very next Tuesday after he officially became the owner, the team invited everyone who had tickets to the game to sit in the lower levels in efforts to fill the lower bowl and give fans a look at what a rocking PNC Arena might look like. Over 11,000 fans filled the lower bowl. Even the Suites were filled up, to the point that Dundon offered his personal owner’s box up to fans. But he didn’t stop there in his quest to fill the seats.

The next month was dubbed FANuary and tickets in the lower bowl were sold for $40 for any seat. After that promotion the Canes Pass was offered to finish out the season strong. The pass, sold at fixed price, guaranteed fans seats to several games including two games in the lower seats. That introduced more mobile ticketing options while giving fans a look at different seats in the arena. Even while it was obvious that the team was going to miss the playoffs for the ninth time, the longest active streak, attendance rebounded. For the first time in what feels like a long time, the Carolina Hurricanes finished the season beating not one, but two teams in attendance.

This season the story and the mission continued. The Canes Pass made a reappearance as well as $40 lower level seating, which was offered as a Black Friday deal. When matched with the emergence of better fan interactions, stellar marketing programs and a renewed hope in the team, the attendance continued to rise. While the promotions are a big part of that success a lot can be said about how the marketing team, under Dundon’s new practice of freedom, has driven a lot of that success.

Before the Dundon acquisition of the team the most the marketing team was really allowed to achieve was perhaps a few billboards, some corporate sponsorships, and the obligatory social media presence. Once Dundon arrived, fans online started to notice something. The Carolina Hurricanes social media platforms came alive. Suddenly they were responding to people. Questions were answered and snarky remarks were met with snarkier remarks. The most dedicated of fans were rewarded with follow backs from the team on these platforms and even the players were getting in on it. This season it got even better.

People walking around major cities in North Carolina found the “Take Warning” logo etched into sidewalks. New third jerseys were teased and finally released. While the initial reaction wasn’t very well received, the on-ice results cannot be ignored. The team wore them more than ever before even taking them on the road to Detroit. They pushed boundaries by taking their home jerseys on the road, much to the confusion of the home team’s fanbases.

The Hartford Whalers heritage was finally embraced. It started last season as vintage Whalers jerseys and branded merchandise began to be sold in PNC Arena. It continued into this season as Dundon doubled down on cashing in on the Whalers nostalgia. He introduced not one but two games that the Hurricanes would wear throwback Whalers jerseys. Once in Carolina, and another in Boston in two games against the Bruins. While it may not have pleased everyone, it is hard to ignore the results from that game and the appeal of the new Whalers Adidas jerseys.

Most of the credit for this should go to the people who do most of the hard work to make these promotions and marketing items a reality. But there is some credit that should be given to Dundon as well. After all, none of these would have become reality under the Karmanos regime. There is still more yet to come, as Adidas has suggested that the Carolina Hurricanes will have a new away jersey next year. This is somewhat confirmed by the team selling away their stock of away jerseys in the arena at half price.

There are many smaller promotions and marketing items that the Hurricanes have introduced in the last year since Tom Dundon took over. An example of this is the upgrade of the military and student rush tickets to the mobile app, something I spoke to in one of my first articles here at Cardiac Cane. No longer are there lines that extend all the way out to the football field and back. Successful promotions from previous years such as Home Grown Nights have continued on as well.


Mid-season report cards for Canes' forwards. dark. Next

Question for CC Readers:

Do you agree or disagree with these grades? How would YOU grade the fan interactions or the Promotions and Marketing teams since Tom Dundon came to power?