Putting a winning product on the ice is one of the chief responsibilities for the front office of a professional hockey franchise. Another important job is to connect with the fan base and the local community that the team represents.
As part of the Columbus Blue Jackets Speakers Bureau, the Blue Jackets Executive Vice President of Business Operations, Larry Hoepfner, met with local business owners on Friday afternoon at a meeting of the Hilliard Area Chamber of Commerce. Hoepfner took the opportunity to introduce Columbus-area professionals to Blue Jackets hockey and the team’s ultimate goal of winning a Stanley Cup.
With some members of the audience unfamiliar with the team and others passionate fans, including one woman wearing her No. 71 Nick Foligno jersey, Hoepfner gave the members a brief history of the Cup. The Stanley Cup is steeped in tradition and also comes with its fair share of legends and fun facts. For a community to truly get behind a team, it really needs to understand what that team is trying to achieve.
“Our goal is to one day bring the Stanley Cup with our names on it to the city of Columbus,” said Hoepfner, calling it the most cherished trophy in all of sports.
Hoepfner spoke about the team’s exciting run to the postseason last April and the energy inside Nationwide Arena. He also outlined the present state of the team and hockey in Columbus, including the plans and festivities for this weekend’s 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Game. Business leaders learned about the fun activities they can enjoy for the weekend at All-Star Winter Park presented by Worthington Industries, but the All-Star celebration will also bring a large tourism presence to Columbus and an excellent opportunity for local business owners to expand their reach.
It is projected that 140,000 people will be visiting Columbus during All-Star, accounting for anywhere between $20-30 million of visitors’ spending. The event is also expected to provide approximately $50 million worth of media exposure. Naturally, this means excellent marketing opportunities for sponsors and local business.
“We want to make sure that we promote all attractions and opportunities for economic development in our region, and bringing in the Blue Jackets was one of those opportunities,” said Libby Gierach, President and CEO of the Chamber. “It’s to learn, it’s to understand, and then you can be a fan.”
Ms. Gierach mentioned that bringing the Blue Jackets together with local businesses is beneficial for everyone involved. There is an opportunity for the Blue Jackets to generate interest in ticket sales within the Hilliard community, but there is also the opportunity for business owners to discover new advertising opportunities. Even at the meeting’s conclusion, several members of the Chamber were asking how they could begin looking into advertising with the Blue Jackets for next season.
That strong relationship between a team and the leaders of the community is important, allowing both the organization and the towns that support it to grow and prosper. With a young group taking the ice every night at Nationwide Arena and new and aspiring business owners joining the Chamber every month, there is plenty of opportunity for the team and the city to grow together.
“The core of our team is locked up long-term and they’re all young. We’re the youngest team in the league,” said Hoepfner. “Things look really good for this team for the foreseeable future. We’re very lucky to have the ownership that we have.
“We have a lot of support behind this team, and we’re looking forward to entertaining the folks in Columbus for a long, long time.”