Sports Writing (Miami, USA), Oct 7.- The NHL’s Florida Panthers fill their pavilion with Canadian tourists fleeing the cold. Its star is Aleksander Barkov, Finn. The marketing strategy of the franchise is to attract foreign fans. A singular redoubt in the state where the sun shines the most.
Hockey plays at a disadvantage compared to other much more popular sports in the area, less than three hours by road, in this area of the United States you can find two NFL teams, two other MLB teams, as well as NBA, motor sports and soccer.
Given this situation, and despite the fact that the Panthers have been helping in recent years with good results (three consecutive Playoffs), the franchise’s marketing and ticketing department develops different strategies to attract fans. Since the founding of the team in 1993, ensuring that the stands are not empty has become his particular obsession.
It is common for local fans, and there are also, to go to the FLA Live Arena, and feel like strangers in their own pavilion. The Panthers are a team used to playing ‘on a hostile field’ despite being local, and it is that very often there are more supporters of the rival than of the Panthers.
This is due to one of the strategies followed by the franchise, which, through agreements with travel teleoperators and in coordination with the NHL calendar, prepares and launches vacation offers by making them coincide with the game that the Toronto Maple Leas, Boston Bruins, Minnesota Wilds or any team from the north play in Florida.
It can be an irrefutable plan to take a week off, bathe in the paradisiacal beaches of Florida, go sightseeing, shopping and watch your favorite ice hockey team play. Even more so when the Panthers pavilion is in front of Sawgrass Mills, one of the largest outlets in the United States.
When it comes to selling tickets, one of the most curious cases is the one that tries to attract the ‘snowbirds’ who decide to spend their winters in the heat of Florida. These are people of medium-high level, usually already retired, who live in the northern territories and even Canada, and who change their residence for a few months when the cold arrives.
According to official data, it is estimated that every winter Florida receives three and a half million Canadians who decide to spend a few months in the state where the sun shines the most, and it is no longer a problem to leave the land where ice hockey is The most popular sport.
One of the most curious initiatives took place in 2009, when the Florida Panthers and the then New Jersey Nets launched a season ticket exchange program among their fans, so that the season pass for the NBA served during the winter months to go see the Miami NHL team play, and vice versa.
Perfect strategy for the ‘snowbirds’ who were guaranteed elite sport wherever their residence was. The problem with this amateur profile is that, sooner or later, he flies home again and sometimes the season is not over yet.
It is then time to turn to the local public, and given the difficulty of capturing mainly Latino fans who do not know the sport, they opt to reach the large communities of foreign countries in this area of the United States.
It is estimated that around 20,000 people of Russian origin currently reside in South Florida, this number is more than any country in Europe or Asia. And a very high percentage lives in Sunny Isles or Hollywood, north of Miami, both places about 25 minutes from the pavilion.
Also, and according to the last census, there are around 25,000 Finns who live in the area, which guarantees a high expectation for going to see the Panthers games.
In other circumstances we might be surprised that the current captain and all-time top scorer of the team is Aleksander Barkov, a Finnish player who is the son of the legend with the same name and with both nationalities. But once we know where most of the Panthers’ ‘hometown’ fans come from, it all adds up.
In the current squad of the Florida Panthers we find twelve Canadians, four Finns, three Swedes and only five Americans. The important battle of public identification with its players is more than won!
With an average attendance of 87% of the capacity of the FLA Live Arena, the Florida Panthers gathered more than 600,000 total spectators in the 2021/2022 season for an average of almost 15,000 fans per game. Challenge completed!
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Panthers, Miami and tourism