The Pittsburgh Penguins came into the National Hockey League in 1967 and, with Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux leading the way, won two Stanley Cups in the early 1990’s.
A few years later, the team fell on hard times that ultimately led it to declare bankruptcy. Lemieux saved the Penguins by becoming the owner, but the team’s on-ice performance did not improve. The relationship with even the most loyal fans had severely eroded, resulting in declining season ticket sales.
In 2007 with Sidney Crosby and other young players as the nucleus for a championship team, and a new arena to open in 2010, executive management seized the opportunity to develop a Brand Strategy that would fuel the team’s growth plan.
To develop the Brand Strategy we guided a cross-functional executive team to emotionally connect the Penguins brand with target fans. In light of football being a religion in Western Pennsylvania, we discovered an insight based on the underlying needs and motivations of a new segment of fans. We then analyzed competitor promises and created the Future Brand Essence of the Penguins. The result was a compelling, believable, distinct Brand Promise that provided clear direction to internal and external people responsible for strengthening the brand with fans, corporate sponsors and the broader Western Pennsylvania community.
We were then retained to lead the implementation of the Brand Strategy across all touch points, including sales, marketing, arena design, corporate partners, community outreach, etc. Additionally, we guided the search for an advertising agency, and the subsequent creative development process.
In 2009, two years into the new Brand Strategy, ESPN The Magazine ranked the Penguins #1 in the NHL in Fan Relations, and #3 in Fan Relations among 122 sports franchises. Later that spring they won the Stanley Cup.
In 2010 and 2011 we led Brand Evolution Workshops, including qualitative and quantitative research with fans, to understand how the Penguins brand had evolved and what the implications were moving forward. And, in 2013 we once again led qualitative research with fans to understand how their perceptions of the Penguins brand had evolved.
During this time, ESPN The Magazine ranked the Penguins #1 in Fan Relations and the #1 Overall Franchise among 122 sports teams. The new arena was voted the Best NHL Arena and the Penguins were voted 2nd in the NHL for Most Innovative Business Practices. Their season ticket waiting list has reached 8,000.
In 2017, there were significant changes taking place in how fans could buy, sell and use tickets to attend all types of sporting events in the US. And, while these changes were already having a negative impact on the current revenue of the Penguins, long-term these changes could prove to be highly detrimental. Given this situation, we were engaged to field qualitative research with fans (focus groups and one-on-one interviews) in order to understand their current perceptions of the Penguins Brand, to understand their current attitudes and behaviors around buying, selling and using tickets to Penguins games, and to understand why former Penguins Season Ticket Holders chose not to renew their season tickets.
- David Morehouse, CEO/President
- Ken Sawyer, former Chief Executive Officer
- Travis Williams, COO
- James Santilli, SVP, Marketing
- Kevin Hart, SVP, Finance
- Terry Kalna, SVP, Sales and Broadcasting
- Tom McMillan, Vice President, Communications
- Chad Slencak, Vice President, Ticketing
- Dave Soltesz, President, Penguins Foundation
- Leo McCafferty, Senior Director of Digital Marketing
- George Murphy, Senior Director of Ticket Sales
- Ross Miller, Senior Director of Partnership Marketing
- Jill Shipley, Director of Fan Development and Special Events
- Barb Pilarski, Senior Director of Creative Services and Publications
- Erin Exley, Database Manager