With the men’s ice hockey competition at the Vancouver Olympics kicking off tomorrow, I figure that I have no choice but to examine Olympic hockey in my post this week. From a PR point of view, this is a dream come true: The birthplace of hockey is hosting the world’s biggest sporting event. Canada, hockey and gold medals. Does it get any better? No, I don’t think it does.
But have the hockey powers-that-be taken advantage of this gift?
To simplify things, let’s look at just USA Hockey, the organization that oversees the Olympic team.
The Americans are Olympic hockey underdogs. With Canada’s skill depth and Russia’s dominant players, the media has been putting the United States on the backburner. As an American, I find that slightly offensive, but also inspiring. I think our American men have what it takes to take it all at the Olympics, and if people see us as underdogs, that will make victory so much sweeter.
Team USA (and Los Angeles Kings) defenseman Jack Johnson talked about the perception of the team in an article on nhl.com. “I don’t know who makes the underdog statement, but I certainly think I speak for everyone when I say that when I go out and play these games for the USA, I expect to win,” Johnson said.
Johnson, a 23-year-old from Ann Arbor, Michigan, has been performing as Team USA’s own media darling. The NHL season wasn’t suspended until today, so most Olympic hockey players weren’t able to attend the opening ceremony for the Games on Friday, Feb. 12. However, Johnson showed up for America.
An article on USA Hockey’s Web site details all the arrangements he made to be able to walk in with Team USA. Clearly, USA Hockey has found a golden boy. I think that’s great. It’s important to have someone that America can fall in love with.
So they’ve got something to sell, but how do they connect that with sports fans in the States?
I’m a college student, so Facebook is my main way of staying in the loop. I didn’t know when the opening ceremony of the Olympics was until several of my friends showed up in my newsfeed as “attending.” With that in mind, I think that USA Hockey could launch a massive Facebook campaign.
Currently, the USA Hockey Magazine fan page is promoting both the men’s and women’s hockey teams. Over 3,400 fans stay updated on USA Hockey through the page, but I didn’t know about that until I started researching for this post. When I first searched for USA Hockey on Facebook, I didn’t find anything authentic. It wasn’t until I saw the Facebook link in an article that I found the fan page.
Facebook isn’t just about reaching a young audience anymore. Most of my older relatives are “friending” me now. Even my mom “likes” my status updates. By reaching out through a fan page, USA Hockey has the potential to influence people of all ages across the country.
Twitter continues to grow as a communication tool, and it provides another avenue for two-way communication. The USA Hockey account focuses on action updates, while tweets from USA Hockey Magazine offer more commentary on the latest hockey happenings.
I think that if Team USA presented a unified brand on social networks, it would help the organization gain awareness and raise interest during the Olympics. This opportunity is just too good to pass up. With all eyes on Vancouver, there’s no better time for USA Hockey to try to expand its fan base.
And if USA Hockey kicks off a social media campaign now, fans and followers will be ready to “like” and retweet when our American boys take the gold.
What do you think? Let me know what you’ve been hearing about Team USA, and feel free to comment about your medal predictions.
Smack talk encouraged.