In full disclosure, VaynerMedia assists the National Hockey League with their online and social media presence. Therefore, to be fair, I will not be assigning the NHL letter grades as I have done for the NBA and the NFL, rather I will leave it to you, the reader, to decide the league’s grade. Please leave your grades/thoughts in the comment section below.
In recent years, people have argued whether or not the National Hockey League can still be considered one of the four major sports. Compared to football, baseball, and basketball, hockey has suffered considerably in terms of popularity. While hockey has kept its die-hard fan base, the average sports fan doesn’t seem to be interested. Now, through social media, the NHL is finding a way to rebuild themselves and to tell their story. They are trying to get creative and attract a new audience, and regain the visibility they once had. So, how are they doing?
The NHL operates powerful Twitter (173,000+ followers and 1,350+ listed) and Facebook (175,000 fans) accounts. Also, the league has a Youtube channel with 3 million channel views and 47,000 subscribers. These numbers are lower for the NHL than they were for either the NBA or the NFL, but hockey is also a less popular sport at the moment. In the end, I would like to see the league utilize emerging platforms, like Ustream and Dailybooth, especially because the other leagues are not. It would help them stand apart.
There is a nice variety of content coming from both the Twitter and Facebook accounts, as well as a steady stream of videos (generally game highlights and plays of the week) coming from the YouTube account. On Twitter, the NHL posts a wide range of content, including promotions, polls, video highlights, NHL.com articles, and most notably, #SaturdayNHLPicks, a popular contest being run by the league right now. The NHL updates each day on Facebook, as well, with a similar variety of content. Further, they have done video interviews and signed item giveaways on Twitter and Facebook with Kevin Smith, Mark Messier, and Alex Ovechkin. The real theme here is consistency. Fans and followers can expect content from the NHL each day, and I commend the league for that.
The NHL does a decent job of interaction on Twitter, especially compared to the NBA and NFL (neither engages with followers on Twitter at all), @replying some amount of followers each day. Also, they are taking advantage of Twitter lists by creating a list of fans for each team in the league. That’s a nice way to get followers involved. On Facebook, the league’s engagement is very minimal. Some of the NHL’s statuses do include calls to action for the fans to interact, and the NHL sometimes responds to fans on the wall, but not enough. So, the league can do better with fan interaction.
The NHL’s two biggest names are Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. Crosby is not utilizing social media and Ovechkin’s last tweet was in late January. Ouch! Apart from these two, there are some other big names active on Twitter, including Mike Green, Martin Havlat, and Mike Commodore. However, in general, I don’t see a lot of players on Twitter, Facebook, or any other platform. It’s possible that the NHL’s player are just less intrigued by the spotlight, or more traditional than athletes from other leagues, however, they have to understand that social media is to their benefit, and pretty soon they will be criticized for not being involved.
It is hard to judge the NHL, especially against the other three major sports. Hockey has taken a tremendous hit in recent years and is finding it tough to compete with the NBA, NFL, or MLB in terms of popularity. However, they are trying to make a comeback, and the utilization of social media is part of that process. They have a tall mountain to climb, but they are already making progress. The NHL is about average in terms of visibility (I would like to see them take it to the next level with emerging platforms), and well above average in terms of content. The league also does a better job of interacting with fans than either the NBA or the NFL. However, their player involvement is low, for whatever reason.
While I cannot grade the NHL on their presence, what grade(s) would you give them? Take a look at my report cards for the NBA and for the NFL (linked at the top of this article) if you need some reference. Leave your thoughts in the comment section, and I will definitely respond with my opinions and feedback. Thanks!