By Jevta Lukic
As the Vancouver Canucks hockey franchise continues to succeed on the ice, it is the business stories around their march to the Stanley Cup finals that have caught the attention of Beedie School of Business professors, who have weighed in with national media outlets such as the Globe and Mail and Toronto Star on the team’s on- and off-ice rise.
While most fans are preoccupied with game-day strategy and the performance of stars like the Sedin twins, Ryan Kesler and Roberto Luongo, it is key business decisions and marketing savvy that have turned the Canucks into one of the most profitable franchises in the National Hockey League. And on the eve of the biggest hockey week in the history of Vancouver, the business side of the Canucks story is finally getting its due.
Speaking with The Globe and Mail this past Saturday, Beedie School of Business marketing professor Lindsay Meredith commended the team’s culturally all-inclusive marketing strategy.
“Traditionally, I don’t think you see the hockey advertisers try to play an ethnic card. They tend to go to the much safer, ubiquitous Canadian population in total,” he said.
The success of the Canucks’ reach can be observed with a quick glance at the diverse crowd that fills Rogers Arena, the Canucks’ home venue, for every game – the result of laudable marketing strategy according to Meredith.
“We’ve got a rule – if you take off after a new market niche, are you going to alienate an existing market niche, who thinks that product no longer belongs to them? Much safer to go for broad-based consumer-type products, where everybody has their hands on it,” said Meredith.
Steven Kates, an associate professor of marketing at SFU’s Beedie School, discussed with The Toronto Star on May 25 whether the high levels of civic pride are sustainable in Vancouver. “Unlike Toronto, Boston and Montreal, Vancouver hasn’t had a long rivalry with another team. Right now there’s more civic pride, more energy out there and people are feeling good. But like the Olympics, when it’s over, things will go back to the way it was before,” Kates said.
As it turns out, even the most sophisticated marketing machine or highest level of civic engagement will not help long-term unless the team plays well on the ice. As Meredith told The Globe and Mail earlier this week in a separate piece about the organization’s marketing strategy, “The best marketing in the world is called a winning team. Marketing a team that loses all the time is like trying to put lipstick on a pig.”
It’s not just the Canucks franchise that has come under the lens of business academics at SFU. Earlier this year, Beedie professors Peter Tingling and Michael Brydon delivered a presentation on NHL drafting at the The MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston. Their presentation, concerning research entitled “Does Decision Order Matter? An Empirical Analysis of the NHL Draft” focused on decision theory when examining NHL drafts from 1995 through 2003, and it revealed just how random the results of the NHL draft tend to be.
Their findings, according to Canada’s national sporting network TSN, suggest that “while some teams may hold an advantage in early rounds, a lot of teams do no better than random chance at the draft table and, even without advanced statistical measures being utilized, could be improved upon simply with better decision-making processes.”
To celebrate the Vancouver Canucks’ historic Stanley Cup run, hockey fans at Simon Fraser University are invited to watch the games on large screens at SFU’s Burnaby campus (in the academic quadrangle, Room B9200) or at SFU Surrey’s Central City outdoor plaza.