Guest Post: Can You Play? The NHL and Marketing to the LGBT Community

Contributed by Jennifer Rhorer/@jrho_jrho – check out our guest contributors page for beard and bio.

When Carolyn and Merrin sent out the call for guest contributors, I knew that I wanted to write something, but I couldn’t settle on what. After reading Carolyn’s series on how the NHL fails at marketing, I decided to look into just how LGBTQIA-friendly each NHL team is. Marketing to the LGBTQIA community is a focused, concrete thing that these organizations should be able to do.

The good new is, every team has had at least one player do a You Can Play video. Though as far as I can tell, no NHL player has done one since Landeskog completed the set in January 2014. It’s like everyone decided they checked off that box, so no one needs to bother again. Update: Andrew Ference and Ben Scrivens have since done YCP videos with the University of Alberta.

Every team publicly apologizes for/condemns players who have said something homophobic/biphobic/transphobic in public. (Hello, bare minimum of human decency!) But what do teams do to indicate they are actually, publicly welcoming of LGBTQIA fans (and our money) and potential future players?

To examine this, I set up a series of items that I consider demonstrate a LGBTQIA-friendly atmosphere and checked each team’s records on them. The items include LGBTQIA theme nights at arenas, participation in Pride parades, activity with LGBTQIA charities, and how the team structures their players’ family and partner organizations (typically known as WAGs, for “Wives and Girlfriends”). Here’s what I found.

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The NHL’s Growth Problem (How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Non-Traditional Market Pt 3)

It’s time for my last segment on marketing & the NHL, and much like part 2, this article is about a particularly poorly served demographic – the US’s growing Latinx population. A quick note on terminology here: I have chosen to use Latinx here instead of Latin@ for readability reasons (and because it is gender neutral). I’ve chosen this term over ‘hispanic’ in most cases, as hispanic also includes Spaniards, who are very much not the population I’m speaking of here. Also, there are arguments that the use of Hispanic was begun as an effort to differentiate Spanish speakers from white people (ie a racist history), not as a term of self-identification.

Off the bat, I want to make one thing very clear; I’m white. In the census boxes, I tick “white, non-hispanic.” I’m pretty much the whitest person you can meet, other than one of those like, creepy Children of the Corn kids.

That said, the point of this article is to focus on why this population is so important for the NHL to court, versus how they should be courted, as there is a lot of cultural nuance that I am not privy to. Most suggestions I will make come from data or learnings from other people or companies, most of which are Latinx owned.

While this article does stand alone, it is probably helpful to read through Part 1: Player Marketing and Part 2: Marketing to Women first.

Part 3: Speaking French is Romantic, but Speaking Spanish is Lucrative

(Speaking Spanish is also sexy, as Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek would like to remind us).

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The NHL’s Growth Problem (How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Non-Traditional Market Pt 2)

This particular article is a bit harder to write, because as a woman, I feel extremely passionate about female fans in sports, and just how underserved that demographic is. Every woman I’ve ever spoken to about sports has some sort of story about how her ‘worth’ as a fan has been questioned, usually by fellow male fans. There was an excellent research piece done by @phylliskessel13 over at Pension Plan Puppets studying the interaction between gender and sports fandom, and you should read it.

But that’s not what this article is about. This article is about marketing, the NHL, and why the NHL needs to specifically reach out to women to further its goals of “Growing the Game.”

If you missed Part 1, you can read it here.

Part 2: Marketing to Women Isn’t About Political Correctness, It’s About Making Money

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