Corporate partnerships go far beyond the sponsored logos a fan sees around the arena. It's about working together, learning together and improving together. The annual Blue Jackets Partner Summit exemplifies all of these traits and fosters the continual growth of these critical relationships.
In early April, over 55 business men and women representing 35 corporate partners from throughout Central Ohio converged on Nationwide Arena to spend a day learning, networking, and enjoying a behind-the-scenes Blue Jackets experience.
"The goal for us was to give back to our partners to help them get better educated on how they can make the most of their investment," said Cameron Scholvin, Blue Jackets senior vice president and chief revenue officer. "It's on us as an organization to demonstrate how we can be of value to these organizations, and I think today is another step in that direction."
The day began with the team sharing the highlights of what was a record-breaking season for the Blue Jackets. Throughout the room, heads nodded as team and player highlights were shared with the group. But the purpose of the day wasn't to talk about just the Jackets on the ice. The agenda moved on to a keynote presentation by sports sponsorship consultant Jack Birch.
In an engaging talk that had Summit participants taking copious notes, Birch provided a "10 Solutions Checklist" that shared best practices in sports marketing and the principles of why sponsorships work. Immediately after, business partners put their heads together in a guided brainstorming session to start thinking about applying the concepts Birch shared.
First time Summit attendee Kristen McLane is new to her role as local marketing manager for Safelite AutoGlass. Having the opportunity to brainstorm on ways to further leverage her company's relationship with the Jackets was invaluable.
BLUE JACKETS IN-MARKET PROMOTIONS
"One of the things that I've been challenged with is how do we make our sponsorships better as a company," McLane said. "This was fantastic for me, not just thinking about the Blue Jackets, but overall how do we optimize, how do we leverage, and how do we think about things differently. The conversations at the table, the keynote, the things to think about, I can't wait to take these conversations back to the office and to our leadership team."
Randy Flesch says his company, Marathon Petroleum, has always benefitted from their relationship with the Blue Jackets to reach not only as a Columbus-based business, but as one with a presence across the nation. Now he's armed with even more ways to maximize Marathon's connection with the Jackets.
"I think the major takeaway was to customize to the needs (of a group) and what you're looking to achieve," Flesch said. "In our brainstorming session, it (was about) listening to the ideas of other people and incorporation that into your own. I think by listening and building on what you have, you can continuously improve your partnership."
After lunch in the Lexus Lounge, the group became Jackets insiders for the rest of the afternoon. They took in a behind the scenes tour of the media room, complete with a press conference with Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen, followed by a locker room tour guided by Jackets broadcaster, and former player, Jody Shelley.
Neither Kekalainen nor Shelley turned away a single question as inquiries ranged from "what's your favorite pizza?" to why players sit where in the locker room and explaining the details of one's pre-game routine.
The event concluded with a visit to the team benches where Summit members watched a personalized thank you from Nick Foligno and heard closing comments from Scholvin and president of hockey operations, John Davidson.
In addition to expressing the organization's gratitude for all the business partners do, the message from the Jackets was clear: "your success is our success."
"We're one of the smallest markets in the league," Scholvin said. "But we are blessed with a very strong corporate base. While season tickets are the lifeblood of any sports franchise, we really do need to be successful at building programs that are mutually beneficial for our corporate partners here in town. When you invest in these partnerships, there is a greater good of the city in the heart of that, but there also has to be a return and we're working to meet that end."
As attendees received commemorative Jackets jerseys with their company's name on the nameplate, and took pictures at center ice, the impact of the day was already clear. Business partners left with tangible steps to use their relationship with the Jackets to help strengthen their brands, grow revenue, and reward employees.
"It was awesome to have the ability to come and have the conversations with the other partners, and the level of engagement by the Blue Jackets staff and leadership is fantastic," McLane said. "I think we see it but to get behind the scenes and hear it from them and realize the value of our partnership and hard work and what it does for (the team) is fantastic."