Nashville Predators marketing team shares secrets to dramatic turnaround


Nashville Predators marketing team shares secrets to dramatic turnaround

PHOTO: Vice President of corporate partnerships for the Nashville Predators, Delmar Smith, shares the methods that led to the team’s huge success in recent years Friday morning in Franklin./ / Photo by Alexander Willis

BY ALEXANDER WILLIS

After a decade of uncertainty, leadership changes and poor ticket sales, the Nashville Predators have made a complete 180, competing for the first time in the Stanley Cup Finals and selling out well over 100 consecutive games since the 2016-17 season.

While a good coach and good players are certainly a part of fostering an enthusiastic base, having even the best team isn’t worth much if no one knows about them – and that is where the marketing team comes in.

Members of the Nashville Predators’ marketing team stopped by Franklin Friday morning during Williamson Inc.’s First Fridays business discussion panel to give a brief presentation on what it takes to spread the word, drive up ticket sales, and create a consistent brand.

Delmar Smith, vice president of corporate partnerships for the Predators, briefly touched on the hole his marketing team had managed to climb out of.

“Back [in 2006], we were averaging about 13,000 people a game [in] a building that seated 17,100,” Smith said. “One year later, [we] found out that the team was most likely going to be moving to Canada… it was a really dark time. From a sellout standpoint, we were selling out three games a year, maybe. Tomorrow night, we’ve got a game versus Dallas to mark our 135th consecutive sellout.”

Smith said that the franchise 13 years ago was worth somewhere around $180 million – today, that mark is closer to $500 million.

Smith also attributed some of the team’s success to the Bridgestone Arena, which he said had “turned into a beast of its own.” The arena was named the single best arena in the nation by Polestar Magazine in 2018. ESPN had also ranked the Predators as the number one franchise of 2017 – of any sport.

Danny Shaklam, also a member of the Predators’ marketing team, said there were many pieces of a puzzle that contribute to the team’s continued success.

Predators’ jerseys, Shaklam said, stand out, giving players a unique identity throughout all NHL teams. Fans’ concerns are being monitored by the marketing team around the clock; Shaklam even said if a fan were to tweet about a seat being broken during a game, that someone would be out in five minutes to fix it.

Shaklam praised the music stage at Bridgestone Arena, saying it was the only NHL team to have one, which draws hugely popular artists such as Carrie Underwood. The musical draw of the arena also goes towards nurturing a family atmosphere, as Shaklam called it, drawing in fans of any demographic, and any age.

Ultimately what sets the Predators’ marketing efforts apart from other NHL teams, Shaklam said, was the effort put into community involvement.

“[Someone] goes out to a Preds’ game or a concert, and they’re looking for an escape,” Shaklam said. “We want to provide that for them, and if we can make that as easy as possible, or make them smile once a month, we’re all for it.”

Shaklam also said that the marketing efforts have an effect that is more than the sum of its parts, and can even extend to seeing the actual team’s performance improve.

“We want to make sure that we have the best relationship with our fans in all of sports, and if we accomplish that, other things will fall into place,” Shaklam said. “The team will play better because their fans are chanting louder, so it’s not just a hockey team – it’s Smashville’s hockey team, so everyone feels like they have ownership.”

The next Williamson Inc.’s First Fridays businesses and marketing event will be on Friday, March 1. For more information, visit the Williamson Inc. website by clicking here.

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