Fixing the Sabres’ Organizational Flaws: An Adventure in Crowdsourcing
One thing that’s been a standard of this and past preseasons since the Sabres instituted their blogger policy is that I, along with any other season ticket holder, often get stuck with tickets to preseason games that you can’t use and nobody really wants. I mean, it’d be great if the organization did something to entice people to want to be here, but until then, I was stuck with my pair for tonight’s game against Washington.
So, being as charitable as possible, I offered them up on twitter. But wanting to get something out of it, I wanted people to earn it and somehow benefit everyone. And this is what I did:
— Eric Schmitz (@3rdManIn) October 1, 2014
With it being easy enough to say “winning,” or “hashtags,” or “not letting me in the press box” (which is reasonable), I was hoping that some people would contribute some decent ideas, legitimate criticisms and intelligent snark. We were rewarded. In an effort to lay it all out for those who didn’t bother to follow along, or have blocked me on twitter or need things explained for them, here’s some of the best thoughts and ideas that were contributed:
— LightSabres (@INHL94) October 1, 2014
— LightSabres (@INHL94) October 1, 2014
Something smart and basic that I remember being discussed last year as the team languished in dead last all season. The Buffalo Sabres hardly mention the Rochester Americans unless they’re trying to sell tickets to a game in Buffalo. They own their farm team. It’s not like they can claim they don’t have the resources or cooperation to produce more content. Show highlights during broadcasts. Score updates in-arena and on broadcast during concurrent games. The Sabres’ greatest selling point right now is the future. Why would you ignore the team that represents that, when you can have such an intertwining, beneficial marketing relationship?
@3rdManIn give passionate fans a place to feel comfortable being boisterous, aka fan club section
— Jeffrey Hoyt (@buffalojeff) October 1, 2014
Some teams have done this with varying success, but it hasn’t been done right in North American professional hockey quite yet. It might have been what they wanted out of the failed “Student Surge” concept, getting obnoxious college students together with cheap tickets and expecting them to raise hell.
I don’t think they quite get exactly how to properly do it, but it can be done. It might be tough with the current bevy of season tickets to isolate a full section that they can sell off for cheap and create a real soccer-style supporters section. If they did it right, not forcing it and allowing for it to grow organically, it could have a very strong effect on the atmosphere in the arena. I could do a full post on how to handle it. Maybe I will. Might be better saving that for the job interview though.
— Displaced SabresFans (@DisplacedSabres) October 1, 2014
Very related to the previous entry, finding a way to unite fans who go to support the team at visiting arenas in a consistent manner could not only maintain the relationship with displaced fans, but turn the tables on home crowds and energize the team. Pregame meet ups, post game parties, supporter sections for fans to sit together… all of this can be put together. It’s very American Outlaw-ish, and AO does a wonderful job with it. They tried this with the “Buffalo Sabres Road Crew” a few years ago, but it needs a reboot.
@3rdManIn bring back some sort of preseason fanfest/carnival/whatever you want to call it. Player signings, equip. Sale, activities in plaza
— Alex Beilman (@AlexBeilman) October 1, 2014
Yes. Bring back the Sabres Carnival. Bring it back yesterday. Easy way to make fans for life.
— Jason Urbanski (@Jason_Urbanski) October 1, 2014
This ended up being the winning tweet, because it’s so basic, smart and feasible.
One thing that makes the arena atmosphere suffer is that there’s no hype. Each game is just a Sabres game. It’s not special, there’s no significance imputed from one game to the next. This can be part of the step towards fixing that. I’ve suggested playing up (or even acknowledging) the opponent in each game, make it about going to see a hockey game between two teams and not just going to see the Sabres. That doesn’t do much for #branding, but it’d help philosophically.
So why not do posters for each game? Some teams will post game day graphics on their social media accounts, change banners, stuff like that, but this could be a fan-focused effort that’s financially rewarding and beneficial to everyone. Sell posters for each game. Short run, maybe like $10-15 each, donate half to charity, give some to the artist, pat yourself on the back, do it all again the next game.
This is something you see in soccer (because soccer is awesome) and one great example is the LA Galaxy, who sell commemorative posters by artists for each home match. I posted a link to a few of them, but here are some samples.
Make a good argument for not doing this.
But that’s just one thing. The more pervasive theme, when talking about what the Sabres, as an organization, can improve, was this:
@3rdManIn Everything. The correct answer is everything. And by a lot.
— ❽ (@jeffreybigmoney) October 1, 2014
Oh, that and one other thing specifically that everyone knows needs work:
@3rdManIn better soc. media presence. Even precluding a sense of humor, it’d be nice to see more stats, countdowns, contests, GIFs, updates.
— BackcheckIsInTheMail (@thewaronstring) October 1, 2014
@3rdManIn in seriousness, I think the Twitter feed should offer more in terms of stats/ice stuff. I dont get the separate handle from Ian.
— Joe (@BuffaloWins) October 1, 2014
@3rdManIn Their social media. i.e the reveal, there’s still tickets left,…. the list goes on. Out of touch with the fan base.
— Dan K (@Buffalo_DanK) October 1, 2014
@3rdManIn Seriously though, they should use twitter more like the Kings. That teams account has a personality and a reason to follow them
— Ernie (@ErniexHamer) October 1, 2014