Monday, December 10, 2007

Red Wings hire a Predator

Owner Michael Ilitch today announced two executive promotions and the addition of a new position at the Detroit Red Wings. The promotions are: Ken Holland to executive vice president and general manager from vice president and general manager, and Jim Nill to vice president and assistant general manager from assistant general manager. In addition, Steve Violetta will join the Detroit Red Wings management team as senior vice president of business affairs. The promotions and Violetta’s position are effective December 10, 2007.
The promotions for Nill and Holland certainly make sense, given they're two of the most sought-after executives in the league, but the strange one here is that the Red Wings are hiring away Nashville's business manager midseason.

Now, I'm not well-versed in all of the particulars, but were the Predators really a top example of marketing genius in the NHL? I've heard from Nashville fans ad naseum that the team wasn't well-promoted and that was the reason for so many empty seats in recent years — but Violetta does come with a good reputation.

Here's a tidbit on him from the Sports Business News:
One of the ideas Violetta tried when he moved from the Padres to the Predators was a sales plan that targeted 250 Nashville based businesses. Of that number, the Predators were able to actually make a 30-minute sales pitch to about 70 of the companies. He said that 10 companies actually bought ticket packages.
Detroit is certainly going to need all the help it can get given all of the empty seats this year at Joe Louis Arena, but that honestly doesn't sound all that promising.

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At 1:45 p.m., December 10, 2007, Blogger Jes Gőlbez said...

From what I've seen and heard, the Wings' marketing efforts consist of telling people to screw off, and strongarming the media into writing nothing but glowing stories about how the Red Wings rool all.

Any marketing the Wings can do, including actual public outreach, might be an improvement. A Detroiter can confirm/deny this.

At 1:50 p.m., December 10, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

They're the fourth team in a four team market. Simple as that.
The Wings aren't the flavour of the month anymore in Detroit, Illitch's other team the Tigers are now.
When push comes to shove in all major US cities with the four sports teams hockey will always come in dead last.
No amount of marketing is going to change that.
They also got a lot of criticism last year for jacking the playoff tickets through the roof when all the UAW Big Three people were getting laid off.
Hockey's a fad in Detroit.
They should move the team to Hamilton.

At 3:39 p.m., December 10, 2007, Anonymous Anshu said...

He said that 10 companies actually bought ticket packages.

Were those season tickets, or 10 game multipacks? And did any of the companies buy more than 1 or 2?

I'm not sure I'd put that on my resume unless I figured out a way to make it read better...

At 4:05 p.m., December 10, 2007, Blogger Paul Nicholson said...

I actually wonder if Violetta won't do pretty well in Detroit. He's used to operating in established markets. I think he failed so miserably because he didn't know how to promote the Preds to a crowd that didn't grow up with hockey, and more importantly, didn't know how to promote/read a southern sports fan.

We aren't all dumb hicks, but fans in the south approach their sports very differently (though with no less passion) than northern counterparts. I don't think Violetta ever really got that.

At 4:13 p.m., December 10, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hockey's a fad in Detroit.
Let's not get carried away. Detroit has had a hockey teams for 80 years. Pet Rocks and Rubik's Cube should be so lucky.

At 6:01 p.m., December 10, 2007, Anonymous Matt Saler said...


Yes, that about sums it up. People are finally saying something about it, but for a long time, the team's success has meant they can do whatever they want.

At 11:18 p.m., December 11, 2007, Anonymous Jennifer said...

I'm so tired of hearing about the lack of hockey fan enthusiasm in Detroit (mostly by gutless anonymous posters). Honestly, do any of the people writing these things live in the Motor City? If not, you have no idea how depressed the market is, you have no idea how much everyone is struggling trying to make ends meet, how everyone is wondering whether or not they'll lose their jobs. Spending a lot of money on one night for a family of four is a tough thing to expect.

And I hear people say "But the Pistons and TIgers are doing better." Well, the Pistons have been selling out, but they have much lower ticket prices and even they have been doing giveaway promotions at every game to get people in the seats. And the Tigers tickets are a lot cheaper too. I personally think the Wings ownership does need to consider lowering ticket prices for Wings games. I'm sure that could help somewhat.

But there's also the fact that a LOT of people (including me) have had to leave the state to find employment. So I only get back to Detroit a couple times a year to see a game. But I do catch some games in a few other cities. And every Wings road game I've ever been to is nearly a home game for all the red and white sweaters in the stands. Can you think of any other team in the NHL who can turn out fans in such huge droves in OTHER cities?

I hope Violetta can help the situation for the Wings at home. But honestly, I think the situation is bigger than any one man can address.


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