It’s a well-known fact that we can’t control wins and losses. Despite the entreaties of so many fans on social media, the staff behind the accounts and digital content can’t do much about the record.
But every once in a while, or if you’re in Golden State, Pittsburgh, New England, or New York just about every year, you get dealt a winning hand. The question is – are you prepared to maximize the winnings, to take home the biggest pot possible.
This was the scenario facing the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights as their hot start to their inaugural season just kept going and hasn’t stopped all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. Their story would’ve created pub and love, regardless, but the team has turned those pocket aces into something more, seizing their opportunity to amass winnings that can last for years and generations to come.
How did they do it? There are plenty of articles to read, there will be case studies to come, but here are five ways the VGK have played their hand wonderfully in 2017-18.
They embraced their newness
From day 0, the Golden Knights milked all the amusement and content they could out of being a team that was being created before our eyes, with no brand or legacy to speak, a true blank slate on the ice and on social media. From poking fun at having no roster (projected lines: guy-guy-Reid Duke [their first player], guy-guy, etc. etc.; Reid Duke playing pregame soccer with no companions to pass to) to celebrating one first after another to trying to wrap their heads and fans’ heads around what they’ve done all season long – the Golden Knights became the unlikely team that was easy to love and to root for. They’ve been playing with house money all season (you better believe that pun’s intended!) and have used such leeway to create an underdog, approachable, witty voice that has endeared them to fans.
They made their games into a show
By now, it’s likely you’ve seen, heard about, or read of the incredible pregame festivities before Vegas Golden Knights home games. It has been called a cross between Medieval Times, Hollywood, Disneyland, and Cirque du Soleil all mixed into one and it has created pregame theater that further adds to the excitement around the team and the hot ticket that is their packed home games at T-Mobile Arena. The Golden Knights are the first major pro sports team to call the entertainment capital of the country home and they fit right in on The Strip with their spectacular pregame shows. Adults and kids will come away from these games with such bewilderment stamped into their minds and memories.
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Vegas sure knows how to put on a show! 🤩 <a href=”https://t.co/v2uGfgJ7r8″>pic.twitter.com/v2uGfgJ7r8</a></p>— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) <a href=”https://twitter.com/NHLonNBCSports/status/1001258101826342912?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>May 29, 2018</a></blockquote>
And they’ve made sure the whole country knows about it, too, especially as their Cup run necessarily created a national storyline. Stick taps to the Golden Knights’ PR team for getting write-ups praising their pregame show in publications like ESPN, the New York Times, and NHL.com, among others, not to mention tons of videos and mentions across social media. Textbook work to amplify what the team is doing.
They became part of Vegas
It has quickly become lear – from the packed arena to the justas packed practices – that the city of Las Vegas has more than embraced its hometown team. The club has helped foster this fan fervor and has continued to throw gas on the fire by integrating themselves into the city. Following the tragic shooting right at the start of their season, the team became a beacon in the community, making visits to hospitals, schools, and emergency workers. Their winning only enhanced the emotional investment from fans, giving them something to cheer about amidst the mourning. From day one, the team made sure to promote the importance of being #VegasBorn and it’s pretty cool to look around the city and see the Golden Knights everywhere – from New York New York’s Statue of Liberty to Julius Caesar at Caesar’s Palace, and much more, the team is part of the fabric emotionally and physically with the city. The team’s home, T-Mobile Arena, is owned and operated by MGM Resorts, and the hockey club has made good use of this relationship, engaging those friends of the family to help support the team. The team has also made inroads with celebrities in the area, too, from hometown boy Bryce Harper to rapper Lil Jon, who gave a free concert outside the arena prior to game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.
They engaged fans in Vegas and all over the world
The Golden Knights have had an instinct for embracing their fans and creating opportunities to engage them further. As fans began popping up not just in Vegas, but all over the world, the team did something about it – and the #VGKWorldwide movement was born. It’s not just a hashtag, though, it’s a mindset – that social media is meant to be social and the best way to build a brand is having fans tell the story for you. Whether it’s soliciting photos of fans all around the world or inviting two-way conversation and user-generated content, the Golden Knights have made fan engagement a active strategy, and not just paying lip service to an engagement rate backed by three second video views. Just look at the responses to this tweet, asking for fans to provide pics to prove they saw this Cup run coming.
They have helped fans fall in love with their players
Think about the signs of a super fan. They probably wear their teams gear a few times a week, they always know when the next game is, and they probably talk about players not using the names on the back of their jerseys, but their nicknames. Nicknames are a lost art in hockey, but every NHL player uses them all the time in practice and in the games, and helping pass on this vernacular to the fans, marrying them, really, can be so key to creating fan connections. So now fans know all about Wild Bill, Flower, Real Deal James Neal, Marchy, and the rest of the fellas.
Moreover, they have turned their practices into opportunities to further engage their fans and help them build relationships with players? How, as simple as facilitating autographs. A lot of practices in the NHL are closed to public, even more don’t have any organized autograph sessions, it’s typically more so fans hanging out in the player parking lot hoping to get lucky. While the Golden Knights made some waves with restricting autographs at practices to ‘kids-only,’ just turning their practices into true fan events, and not team events that fans are allowed to observe, they gave fans more opportunities and reasons to connect with the club.
[Related note: They have also done a good job with player-driven content and social media takeovers, even into the playoffs, and have done Facebook Live pregame shows just about every night]
One of the most important lessons in social media and sports, and sports business in general, is to have a plan to make the most of the good content and the good times. Because just about seat the table will eventually get dealt a winning hand. The question is – will you know what to do with it?
Related: Listen to the Vegas Golden Knights’s former Senior Writer and Twitter voice Dan Marazza talk about the team’s early approach to voice, engagement, and content.