“Alarming”: study shows damage to NHL brand at levels never before seen

Globe and Mail: NHL doing alarming damage to brand

Level5 [does] “brand” analysis for such major enterprises as the NFL [and] NBA [...]. Its expertise lies in in-depth interviews that determine the “emotional attachment” people have to various products.

In the case of the NHL and its players, the abiding feelings of the moment are betrayal at one end of the scale and utter lack of interest at the other. [...]

“We found damage at levels we have not seen,” Kincaid says. “It’s quite alarming, really. If anyone thinks that the lockout can end and everyone will come back to Happy Valley, it ain’t going to happen.”

Following the interviews – in the case of hockey, 1,066 people were surveyed – computer programs produce emotional maps [...] that illustrates the good feelings and bad feelings concerning a product.

The maps are divided, pie-like, into eight colour zones – red (fun), yellow (interest), orange (inspirational), brown (knowledgeable), green (trustworthiness), grey (satisfaction), blue (nurturing) and purple (friendliness) – and the farther a core emotion drifts from the centre the greater the concern.

A near-perfect emotisphere would be the Walt Disney Co. brand, the centre almost entirely red and yellow, the only outer concern a slight boredom even among those who generally like and admire Disney.

A disastrous map would be the one Level5 created following the BP PLC oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. It was the worst the company had seen – until it got around to the NHL this month.

Got that? NHL brand worse off than British Petroleum after gargantuan oil spill.

The first surprise researchers found was passion for the national winter sport has slipped. One-third of Canadians polled consider themselves “passionate” about hockey, one-third is neutral on the topic and one-third has no interest at all.

“It surprised us,” Kincaid says. “If we had done this study 10 years ago, 20 years ago, we would have seen half of Canadians or more say they were passionate about the game.”

They found a lot of males have slipped into “neutrality” about the game – are now bored with hockey talk and feel they no longer relate to the game. Football – both CFL and NFL – is on the rise among those fans [...].

[...] On the outer edges, where brands don’t wish to be found, the poll found dislike and, tellingly, boredom with NHL hockey.

The emotionally-charged red showed up [...] in the outer edges of the charts, indicating a significant and strong emotion: disgust. [...]

The passionate fans are angry, the neutral fans turned off and bored, the mostly non-fans – the people hockey needs to attract if it hopes to grow – disgusted.

“Think what this means to the sponsors of hockey,” Kincaid says. “For almost one-third of Canadians, you are wasting your time on them. You’ve lost them. They are not going to become even ‘neutral.’”

As for those who do care about the game and still feel cheated, Kincaid says anyone who believes all the NHL has to do is come back and all will go back to as it was should think again.