The following article was submitted by one of our readers, Ben Lindsey, who besides his love of Kings’ hockey has a very specific passion for the home game fan experience. You may remember some of Ben’s work, as he edited a pump-up video we all enjoyed so much. Here Ben takes his crack at the written word and implores you to join him in a united stand against what most of us can and have agreed is a wholly sub-par game experience. This is a subject I am personally very interested in and have been planning my own article on for quite a while. Expect a petition in the future. So read on, enjoy, and most importantly, chime in if you echo Ben’s thoughts and criticism.
As a fresh sheet of ice was being laid in the Staples Center, pictures of the new ice started their Internet rotation with a few news stories and interviews to boot. With it, as with most things associated with the net, the armchair critics (the ever-important fans, namely us) whom accompany the stories went to work. Not without their fair share of productive and well-heeled criticism, they sometimes start good conversations; in this case about the overall fan experience at the Staples Center during hockey season for our beloved LA Kings.
After a slightly misguided rant on a popular (and now official) Kings blog about a couple of pennies being embedded in center ice at Staples by our overused mascot grew into a full-blown conversation about how much the organization is again missing the mark with its game presentation efforts, I wanted to make a few points about the entire unfortunate nonsense surrounding a typical LA Kings game. Although I think laying pennies in the ice is nothing more than simple fodder for the organization to muster up some cheap publicity, having a mascot isn’t anything pathetically off-track when it comes to trying to liven up a sports arena. YES, Bailey is overused and at times, almost embarrassingly so.
Having said that, the Kings just hired a new but yet to be named Sr. Director of Game Presentation and Events, replacing Jon Adams. I am genuinely optimistic in what he/she will do with the travesty that has been the Kings’ hockey experience in the past. However, I’m willing to bet that he/she does not succeed, unfortunately. That’s simply my realist point of view surfacing. I say that based entirely on my personal experiences over the past 20 years coupled with every other Kings Fan who expects a little more out of a hockey game than tee shirts being flung through the air by the ice crew, a horrific music selection, poorly produced pre-game videos (nothing against Aaron Brenner, the man behind Kings Vision. I’m referring to the troops marching in on the kingdom and the inherently amateur graphics inserted in the videos themselves) and other on-ice shenanigans between periods.
Simply put, going to a hockey game at the Staples Center is only a little more exciting than hitting a beer league game at your local rink when it comes to the experience we have outside of the game itself. That’s terribly sad considering that going to a hockey game in LA means you’re with family, you’re brothers in puck, a unique group of people who stick together within a town where most go unnoticed and alone. The level of how sad this is finds itself multiplied exponentially by the fact that a good deal of us within the family are marketing/entertainment professionals, talented artists, editors, producers, etc. Some of us are all-of-the-above. Be one, a few or none-of-the-above, the fact still remains that this is a time of incredibly savvy consumers who demand more out of their video games, can call out shotty special effects in the biggest of blockbusters and to be frank, have pre-packaged software on their store bought Macs that allow them to rival the quality of what’s been output graphically by the Kings over the past decade. This of course does not include the work Aaron Brenner has produced since coming aboard, which is excellent. If that weren’t enough, fail at something these days and the electronic ripple effect throws itself throughout the country at the speed of light, literally.
Another issue is the Kings advertising. I can attest to the utter lack of efficacy in marketing from a target audience member’s point of view just as I’m sure most of you can as well. I didn’t start seeing predominant advertising in the LA valley until last season when some billboards went up and shortly before that when a few Metro buses were wrapped in Kings regalia for a short while. Granted, the marketing and game experience departments are two separate entities – they both work collectively to enhance any experience we all have as fans, die-hards and casuals alike. However what should be a two way street, often goes unrequited. I was at LAX last week and the Parking Spot bus beared the Kings’ crown with a pathetically small 1′ diameter decal! Watch a Kings game on TV and tell me how many times you see the Parking Spot logo. Basically, any Kings fan can tell you what the Parking Spot is but does that door swing both ways? Does anyone tripping through LAX or Burbank associate the Parking Spot with us? No. Who formulated that partnership? I’m quite confident I don’t need to address the Under Armour door our boys walk through before every home game. That abomination deserves an entire entry in and of itself.
When asked to comment on the marketing for this season in regards to how it will be affected by the absence of an NBA season, COO Chris McGowan responded somewhat vaguely with a standard media-prepped response that no one can blame him for. Coupled with the lack of effective marketing over the past few seasons, this leads me to believe there’s going to be nothing special happening this year what so ever. Again, this is an assumption based off of what we’ve been shown so often in the past. Such can be a tragic mistake, given the opportunity to secure a somewhat higher return on investment with no NBA, no NFL (yet) and for all intensive purposes, no MLB here in town. I don’t think it’s even necessary to point out that this is the best line-up we’ve had on paper since ’93. It’s promising to be a banner year for us and what are we going to do with that opportunity? Nothing, so it would seem. Case in point, Mr. McGowan also mentioned that we’ll be sticking with the ever unpopular “Pride=Passion=Power” slogan. Excuse me while I puke predominantly pink bits of pancake. The fans are the only ones showing any pride with the team from a marketing perspective. The passion is never felt outside of the arena in respect to our image as an organization and power is not the sum of the two when they’re utilized so ineffectively.
With AEG having ownership of the area, it’s a shame there’s little-to-no Kings collateral present while approaching the arena on any given game night. It’s a shame there’s absolutely NO fan interaction inside the arena or just before you enter off of Chick Hearn Ct.. It’s a shame the organization is missing the boat in most every single aspect of wanting to have “…the best experience in all of sports.” That’s quoting the ad AEG had for the Sr. Director of Game Presentation and Events opening. We’re not even close to that. This is all without mentioning the utter disaster the pre-game show has been since they started doing it…and we’re in the entertainment capital of the world! Not fooled by a bunch of flashing lights and boisterous music? It seems like most are not and neither am I. It’s like watching an old man dance at a wedding. There’s absolutely no choreography to it at all but you still watch hoping he doesn’t fall and break his hip! Ultimately, all the pieces are in place for it to be spectacular but the execution is lacking in every single manner possible.
Music is an integral piece of the fan experience puzzle and Deiter Ruehle, the Kings’ Music Director has a fantastic résumé, but without the knowledge of who’s ultimately calling the shots when it comes to what music is played during the games, we cannot completely fault him. Surely, a lot of it lies squarely on his head, though. Regardless the fact remains that the music selection is poor and not representative of the tastes of the core fanbase. Remember, this is an organization, meaning there’s a great possibility of many a chief sticking his or her nose in where it most likely does not belong, simply because they can. Again, this equals a frenetically jumbled mess of creative/corporate output. In other words, a less-than-stellar game experience for all.
I have an entire presentation in the works for the organization on how to capitalize on the abundant opportunities presented to us as an organization. Yes, WE are part of the organization as well. WE think we have the best team in the league. WE think there’s no better place to play hockey. WE think our team, our image and our FAMILY needs to be more properly represented as a whole. WE need to write the Kings and tell them how much it all sucks and that we want more. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. They won’t listen if we simply bitch and moan about it on the boards and blogs as so many of us are doing rather consistently. We have to be heard as part of the family and actively so. Otherwise, love it or hate it, you’re going to get poorly-printed tee shirts thrust at you while you’re trying to enjoy your $16 beer, wincing at the sound of Fergie’s voice so tritely blared to get you to respond to the “Applause Now” sign before we go back on-air.