Full marks. They got it right. Aside from the corny ‘wave your BMO card in the air for a chance to win a $50 gift certificate’ we weren’t treated like we were all A.D.D. sufferers in need of marketing stunts every 30 seconds.
There were no cheerleaders, mascots, almost no canned music, no prizes shot out of air cannons and no radio-voice announcer pummelling us with exortations to ‘make some noise Vancouver!’ They let the game be what we came for and the fans reacted well to it. The highlight was actually not the Southsiders (although I was at the other end and couldn’t really hear them much so I could be wrong) but rather the chorus of drummers sitting up at the top of the east stand. And they weren’t planted there by the Caps. I’ve been told they’ve all gone and bought season tickets and warned the Caps that they were a drumming group and would be bringing their bongos and such with them. They were great and the crowd lapped it up.
The Canucks should really take note of what happened today. The sport was the only item on display. It was not a sideshow that connected various marketing campaigns soundtracked by the idiocy that is top 40 FM radio.
We got a compact stadium with great sightlines, a nice sunny day and two teams that played like they wanted to be there. Yes, it was long on athleticism and physicality and a bit short, save for Chiumiento and maybe DeRo and Dunfield, on ideas and technique but it was something I was happy to see. It was a huge upgrade on the dire bore-fest that recent seasons at Swangard had become.
I took two of my kids to see the Canucks a couple weeks ago and got the tickets through Ticketmaster (ie. not scalpers). It was over $370 for three tickets. My tickets today were $18 each and we sat in the second row behind the north goal. It was a bargain and as soon as we got home my son wanted to watch it again on TV (via the PVR).
They will do well and create fans that last if they stick with this approach. For me the best comparison is that you can sell millions of Justin Beiber records to people with no attention span, or critical lens, and maybe get some secondary product sales and keep that going for a few years with a sufficient marketing budget but it’s not sustainable unless people are willing to actually care about Justin Bieber rather than just having them accept being sold a Justin Beiber product periodically.
Bands like Radiohead and Wilco have always gone very low key on the marketing front and let the product speak for itself. They don’t over-promise and they don’t carpet bomb you with marketing tat. They already have well-established, financially successful careers and fans who will go out of their way to pay for the records (and concert tickets) when they’re released even though music is very easy to get for free these days. People want to be associated with them and while it may take a bit longer and have some hiccups along the way, the Caps will cultivate a true fan base and not a perpetual series of JCL jersey wearers who are already looking for the next big thing if they keep the focus on the game and not the three periods of insult to your intelligence that a Canucks game has become. The Canucks get away with it because this is a ‘hockey town’. The Caps though went a long way today to establishing this as a ‘soccer town’.
Credit where credit is due. 10 out of 10.
I’m going to the Caps v Toronto game today and I think it’s going to be great. Not so much the product on the field because that will take some time but I think it’s a chance for Vancouver sports fans to have a truly exciting atmosphere at home games.
Let’s face it, the sterility at Canucks home games, aside from the playoffs, is embarrassing. The product on the ice is fantastic but the attempts to manufacture atmosphere and engage the crowd are patronizing.
As one of my favourite authors, Milan Kundera said, “The rules to a relationship are written very early” He was talking about men and women and how the patterns and expectations within a long term relationship are set in the first few meetings and, afterwards, are very hard to change. That’s going to be the case for the Caps. I really don’t follow MLS closely at all but I know the best thing that’s happened to the league in many years was when Toronto FC’s first home game turned into a fan-created display of awesomeness. The Red Patch Boys set the tone and defined the atmosphere. It wasn’t about cheerleaders and mascots and signs telling you when to ‘make some noise!’
Seattle took their cue from that and is now considered the loudest and most difficult place to play for visitors. The Southsiders will not let the side down. They will represent all that is good about crowds at games and, if allowed, they will give us the true fan driven team sport experience that is status quo in Europe and South America but sadly lacking in almost all North American pro sport arenas.
The Caps job in this is to stay out of the way and let the fans design their reaction to the team and the experience that is game day.