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How Social Media Shapes the Stanley Cup Playoffs

Mmmm ... #StanleyCupcakes

Mmmmm ... #StanleyCup-cakes

Under the glowing spotlight of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, a marketing campaign can take on a life of its own. The best, like the Minnesota Wild’s ‘State of Hockey,’ or Detroit’s ‘Hockeytown,’ are timeless, a part of the communal fabric that weaves fans together with their favorite team.

Those that don’t connect can come across as too generic, too forced and are open to criticism on social media, especially if the team doesn’t live up to its end of the bargain.

Marketers needed to work on the fly during hockey’s condensed 2013 campaign. The start of the season, delayed more than three months due to contentious labor negotiations, brought sympathetic gestures from teams to fans that may have felt slighted. With 48 games in 100 days, most clubs were focused on surviving the grind, rather than building out large-scale campaigns without any guarantee of success.

Even with the short turnaround, there are some social highlights from hockey’s marketing playbook for the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs. This article highlights a few of them. 

Stanley Cupcakes

The NHL used an interesting tactic to create media discussion about the Stanley Cup Playoffs on social media.

Cupcakes. Stanley Cupcakes. Or, #StanleyCup-cakes on Twitter. 

The league partnered with Crumbs Bakery to make team-specific cupcakes for all 16 clubs that made the playoffs. These were then distributed to selected members of the press with a message to 'Tweet Before You Eat.' One writer, Steve Lepore of SB Nation, did the league one better, using the tasty treats as a way to make his playoff predictions

For fans looking to get #StanleyCup-cakes of their own, there is a special, NHL branded, Stanley Cupcakes van visiting select playoff cities. The cupcakes can also be found at many of Crumbs’ 67 locations across the country.

Raise the Torch

Fan profile photos can #RaiseTheTorch with the Montreal Canadiens


The Canadiens have won more Stanley Cup titles than any other team (24) and have a laundry list of legends from Richard to Roy that have carried the franchise through time.

On the door of the team’s locker room at the Bell Centre, is a quote from a poem called ‘Farmers Fields’, written by John McCrae in 1915, the year the team won its first Stanley Cup. It reads, “To you from failing hands, we throw the torch. Be yours to hold it high.”

The torch is a symbol of the organization’s legacy. It represents legends like Maurice Richard and Patrick Roy, a century of history in the City of Montreal and the generational bond that ties fans together through time.

To honor this tradition, a young child skates around the ice before every home game, carrying the torch for all to see. Those who wish to participate online can use the hashtag #raisethetorch to be included in a digital fan mosaic on the team’s website.

BeLIeve and Believe In Blue

Two hockey teams from the New York area made the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs and both use the word ‘Believe’ in their campaigns.

BeLIeve is how the New York Islanders are connecting with fans to celebrate the team’s first playoff appearance since 2007. The capitalized LI in BeLIeve symbolizes the team’s home on Long Island.

The New York Rangers, who play games in Manhattan at Madison Square Garden, also will use the ‘Believe’ theme. They want you to ‘Believe in Blue.’

Why ‘Believe in Blue?’ The Rangers are affectionately nicknamed the Broadway Blueshirts to those in the hockey community.

On social, the Twitter hashtag for the campaign is #NYRBelieve.

Octopi Hockeytown

Detroit has been dubbed Hockeytown since 1996, when a marketing campaign by the hometown Red Wings turned into a small business success. Now, almost two decades later, there’s even a Hockeytown Café and a Hockeytown Authentics, where everything from beer to team jerseys are sold.

The club is asking fans to Octopi Hockeytown for the 2013 Playoffs, tying in the Hockeytown slogan with a legendary tale that dates back more than a half-century. In 1952, two Detroit brothers, Pete and Jerry Cusimano threw an octopus onto the ice at Olympia Stadium, the specimen’s eight legs symbolizing the eight wins needed to win the Stanley Cup. The Red Wings swept their way to a title that season and thus a new tradition was born.

Fans can #OctopiHockeytown by downloading special graphics that can be used as Twitter and Facebook profile photos, phone screensavers and desktop backgrounds. Supporters of the movement can also attend #OctopiHockeytown events and enter to win #OctopiHockeytown merchandise.


All Stanley Cup Playoff teams will leverage digital and social channels to encourage 'Beard-A-Thon' donations

Grow One For The Team

All 16 playoff teams will participate in a Beard-A-Thon to benefit various charities in their local communities. The campaign’s tagline, which encourages fans to partake for a good cause is ‘Grow One For The Team.’

The tradition of Playoff Beards started with the 1980-83 New York Islanders, who grew them for superstition and solidarity, refusing the razor until one’s team has been eliminated.

Maggie Wagner, a 17 year-old Pittsburgh Penguins fan, took the tradition one step further during the NHL lockout, refusing to shave her legs

Join The Conversation

  • Alex Baker's picture
    May 3 Posted 2 years ago Alex Baker

    Nice one Jake, I always enjoy these sports related marketing posts of yours.

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