Mike Hope was the LA Kings Public Relations Director for several seasons in the mid 1970s, a period that turned out to be a pioneering one for the Kings in many ways.
Coming to the Kings from the Portland Trailblazers, Hope brought a wealth of PR experience to the table, which he used to help build the Kings an excellent public relations structure, much of which is still thriving today – not only with the Kings, but with other teams and other sports as well.
Hope recently took the time to share some of his most outstanding stories from a job centered in the entertainment capital of the world. The following is a summary of those stories.
ON BUILDING GAME ATTENDANCE:
“We built the crowd to average 12,500 people. That doesn’t sound like a lot in comparison to today, but in those days we held the (franchise) record for the highest average paid attendance until Wayne Gretzky came to the Kings. When I started in ’73, it was 6,000 to 8,000 per game. The way we would create exposure is we would give free tickets away to the military. What the military would do was they’d provide busses. We might give out 3,000 comp tickets to the military and we’d get 300 to 500 per game, so it was a service to the military but at the same time it brought all these extra people who would buy concessions, buy merchandise, buy programs. Then they would go back and they would tell the other soldiers about the game and spread the word of the Kings.
“As part of that, we also built the crowd by targeting women’s groups. In the mid 70s, we researched all of the women’s clubs, groups, associations, and we would go out and spread the word. Women knew nothing about hockey, and they would come, dress up for the game, be refined and good looking, and then a fight would break out on the ice. And the women would go crazy and the four-letter words would be coming out of their mouths, then they would sit down and be refined. One of the things we knew was that if we had women at the games, men would follow. Over the course of several years, the reputation was that if you wanted to see some good-looking women in a fun situation, go to a Kings game.
“Women then didn’t understand the game, so one of the things I did was I had a column called “The Hope Chest.” It wasn’t a Kings statistical thing, it really was about how the game of hockey was played, what the Kings’ wives favorite recipes were, who the players were as people. We tried to teach the crowd to be Kings fans.”
HOW MEDIA EXPOSURE WAS IMPROVED:
“One of the first things I did when I got (to the Kings) was I closed the locker room to celebrities like Larry Mann, and to the groupies, who were interfering with the beat reporters getting to the players after the game to get their stories. In those days, we didn’t have computers – they had to type out the story and they had to telecopy their story into the news desk so it could be edited and it had to be in by 11 o’clock and they had to get quotes. All the celebrities and the groupies and the hangers-on would be in the locker room, and the reporters couldn’t get to the players to get quotes. So I wasn’t very popular with the celebrities and the groupies. I was the first one to close the locker room to all the celebrities and I insisted – I went to the Forum ushers – and I made people show their media pass, and they couldn’t get downstairs unless they had a credential. We would let the celebrities down afterward, but we wouldn’t let them go for the first 20 minutes, so the media could go right down after the game, get into the locker room, and talk to the players. We had Rogie Vachon, Marcel Dionne, Terry Harper, who were very media savvy, they were great guys, and they loved talking, so they were very good quotes.
“Another thing we started was a post-game radio quote operation. We were looking to try to build exposure for the Kings and build hockey in Los Angeles. We would have Bob Borgen and Jim Pells go down and do post-game interviews with the players. After the game we sent post-game player interviews over the air to mainstream, secondary radio stations in Southern California. At one time, we built it up to 34 radio stations around Southern California. So what we did was we created an exposure of building the crowd.
“As another service to the media, we created a new media guide format. We came up with a concept of a media guide where you would have notes. You’d have player notes, you’d have last year’s stats, new milestones they were approaching for the coming season, you’d have summer notes and personal notes. We would take quotes from different topics and put them in the media guide. We took these hockey players and we made them personalities.”
Check back to LAKings.com/news next week (scheduled for December 12) for Part II, which delves into the more entertaining aspects of the Kings PR world in the 1970s.
The Kings, in their 48th season, have a great number of former players and staff who help make up the “Kings Family.” Learn more about Kings alumni on Facebook: www.facebook.com/LAKingsAlumniAssociation.
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