Monday, December 3, 2007

Caps Advertising Leaves a Lot to be Desired

As many Capitals fans already know, the team has struggled in recent years with attendance. Some of this can be chalked up to the team's performance, the horrible schedule NHL teams have had to deal with the last several years and perhaps the location of the Verizon Center. But probably more than a little of it has had to do with the Capitals' marketing campaigns, which have been lacking in recent years. This is especially true of their television ads.

There have been three television ads the Caps have run frequently this year. One features a woman in a tattoo parlor watching a Capitals game and getting the Capitals new 'W' logo tattooed on her shoulder; one features a "guy's night out" theme; one focuses on Chris Clark's leadership and toughness. Please note that when I refer to these ads I use my own terminology as I do not know for sure what the ads are officially called.

#1 - Tattoo Parlor

I couldn't find anywhere to download or embed this video, but it can be viewed by going to the Capitals website, going to the Multimedia section, clicking Caps TV and then going to Caps Insider>Commercials and In-Game Features. Here the ad is simply called 'Tattoo'.

For those of you who have not seen it and don't want to load it up, here's what happens in a nutshell. A woman is shown in a tattoo parlor watching a Capitals game. As she is being tattooed Ovechkin comes in on net and we hear Joe Beninati calling a goal for the Caps. The tattoo artist pulls back to reveal that she has finished the Caps 'W' logo on the woman's shoulder as the voiceover says "Capitals hockey. The cool alternative".

Let me be frank. I hate this ad. I do appreciate where it's coming from: "everyone in D.C. follows the Redskins religiously. Your grandparents watch baseball. The NBA is built on the image of hype and hipness to urban culture. Don't buy in. Be different. Watch hockey." But the execution of this ad is laughable.

First of all it feels like obvious pandering. A girl in a dark tattoo shop, with what I assume is supposed to be a badass look on her face, being told outright that hockey is the "cool alternative" (emphasis on the word cool)'s all too much and way too obvious what they're trying to get at. You're going to have a hard time convincing people who want to different to be different by telling them how to be different.

But the biggest flaw in this ad is that I don't imagine it making many people who are relatively indifferent become more interested in catching a Caps game, either in person or on television and that of course is the whole goal of advertising. Rather, I think most people who don't care to much about the Capitals either ignore the ad or roll their eyes at it.

Plus, why is the woman scowling when
Beninati calls the goal? Isn't she supposed to be a Caps fan?

#2 - Guy's Night Out

This ad obviously makes an effort to appeal to whole "guy's night out" concept which, again, is a good idea in theory. However the execution again needs some work. We've got shots of the guys psyched about their Caps tickets, out to dinner, having a beer, playing some pool and finally arriving at the Verizon Center where they view a Caps win. Again, maybe a decent plan but bad execution. The jerky camera, fast cut scenes and obvious references to 'chicks' and beer don't come across as fun as exciting but rather as comical (you can almost here the guys repetedly calling one another 'Dude'), and is capped by the guy who's rubbing his hands together in glee and anticipation upon sighting the Capitals tickets.

But to me, the biggest problem with this ad is how reminiscent it is of the Chappelle's Show sketch 'Dude's Night Out' featuring the imaginary Schlipps beer. It might not seem a problem at first but consider this: the target for the Capitals ad is clearly young men and many (most?) young men are familiar with Chappelle's Show, especially the more popular sketches like 'Dude's Night Out'. The association popped into my head immediately the first time I saw the Caps ad (and I'm not a huge Chappelle's Show fan or anything); now every time it airs I just laugh at the absurdity of how closely it resembles 'Dude's Night Out'. And truthfully, it makes me want to rent Chappelle's Show more than go to a Capitals game when I'm watching by myself and makes me embarrassed to be a Caps fan when I'm watching with family or friends who aren't.

Please note that the second video, 'Dude's Night Out' from Chappelle's Show may be not safe for work (NSFW) in many places.

Please also note that, to the Caps credit, this ad has been updated to feature the new uniforms and logo.

#3 - Captain Clark

The third Capitals ad I've seen aired so far this season features captain Chris Clark talking about the injuries he has suffered, his toughness and what it means to be a leader. Again, let me be frank. I love this ad and it's clearly the best of the lot from this year. The appeal is fairly simple as the ad focuses on Clark's dedication to his teammates, to the organization and to the game of hockey. Aside from being appealing to Capitals fans, most of whom would be happy to see Clark's toughness recognized, this commercial is also the most likely to interest casual fans and get them to come out and see a game.

The Capitals still have a ways to go with their marketing campaign. From what I observed while in the D.C. area, and what I'm told by others, the Capitals don't advertise much except for during telecasts of their own games which obviously hurts their odds of acquiring new fans. In addition the omission of ads featuring Kolzig (for his loyalty to the organization and achievement, including a Vezina), Semin (for his ability to make highlight reels plays) and Ovechkin (for...well, obvious reasons) is something that ought to be addressed. But at least the spot with Clark is a step in the right direction.

1 comment:


1) Attendance problems can be traced to a few clear problems:
a) Team performance. Losing for a long period makes it difficult to get fans excited.
b) Bad marketing- As you wrote this team does a piss-poor job. They have the most exciting player in the NHL. One who is a great character, etc. Yet they do little to promote their team.
c) Divisional make up-There are NO real rivalries in the SE. The closest team is 5 hours away(Carolina) The biggest rivals are in the old Patrick division. The Verizon is rocking when the Pens, Flyers, rangers are in Not when Carolina, TB, etc come in for their 4 visits!
e) No real/too few give-aways. It seems every other arena has a lot of give away nights. The caps have like 2-3 meaningful/decent games when they have a nice give away.