The following interview with Tom Lord, ICF Next’s Group Creative Director, is part of our Campaign Spotlight series, which examines this year’s Hashtag Sports Award-winning work. “This is Our Ice,” created by ICF Next and the Minnesota Wild, won for Best Integrated Campaign which recognizes the strategy that best melds new media and traditional channels (out-of-home, PR, print, etc.) to create a unified and engaging message.
What unique objective or goals led to the creation of this work?
In late September, when the Minnesota Wild season begins, people, unfortunately, aren’t thinking about hockey, nor are they buying single-game tickets. In a crowded sports market such as the Twin Cities, the sports conversation is dominated by college football, MLB playoffs, and the behemoth that is the NFL season. So we set out to answer how we could: 1. Engage a broader group of fans and 2. Make fans feel like a part of the team regardless of the time of year or wins and losses.
How was the entry designed and implemented with the modern sports fan in mind?
Our challenge was to find an idea that not only strengthened the fans’ sense of community but to make them all feel they have an important role to play for this team. We needed to find something that all Minnesotans had in common and connect them to the Wild. In the Land of 10,000 Lakes (lakes that in the winter freeze into 10,000 ice skating rinks), we found that truly Minnesotan connection. This Is Our Ice isn’t just an ad campaign, it’s a call to arms and a new tradition: inviting people from all over to bring their water to contribute to the ice that the players will literally be skating on this season. Whether it’s a backyard rink, nearby pond, or the ice at the Xcel Energy Center, This Is Our Ice. All of ours.
How did this work achieve effective engagement and what measurable outcomes were delivered?
By the time 2,100 fans showed up to the September event with pond water to flood the rink, the team knew it was on to something. It had already set State Fair records for merchandise and ticket sales and seen more than 4K social posts (totaling more than 54 million impressions) using #OurIce. The momentum continued into the season when earned media share-of-voice was up 100% as compared with years past. This Is Our Ice generated more than 50 media placements in national outlets including Sports Illustrated, NHL Network, CBS Sports, Hockey Feed, The Comeback, and local broadcast, print, and online outlets. These placements generated more than 115 million media impressions. Most importantly, single-game ticket sales increased by six percent compared to the previous year.
What new benchmark(s) in fan engagement does this set? How will this work inspire and move the industry forward?
In sports marketing, rather than talking at people with cliché campaigns that say how great your team is, we believe it’s better to let fans participate in your brand. This advertising campaign was completely based on community involvement. We created an event and an in-game, every game ritual whereby Minnesotans created the ice surface the team skates on, from water sourced from their family ponds, favorite lakes, and backyard hockey rinks. The fans’ engagement became the advertising platform.
Can you share a bit about any research that your team conducted while developing this engagement strategy?
The agency interviewed stakeholders and season ticket holders in person to learn what motivates them to be fans of the team. We learned that while winning and team storylines are exciting, what people really want is to be a part of a community and feel like they’re an important part of the team.
What do you think made this campaign so appealing to hockey fans?
In Minnesota, lakes are an important part of hockey culture. It’s where many people not only spend their summers but also where many people spend their winters—learning to skate on their frozen backyard rinks, ponds, and lakes. Therefore, having the community create the actual ice surface that the team plays on from their hometown water creates a special connection.
The Minnesota Wild and ICF Next were one of only 25 inaugural Hashtag Sports Award winners. What does this honor in engagement excellence mean to both organizations and the This is Our Ice campaign?
To be recognized alongside inspiring brands and content makers for creating an emotionally engaging campaign for an industry that has given us such emotionally powerful moments is an incredible honor.
We’re now accepting entries for the 2020 Hashtag Sports Awards presented by Budweiser. Ensure your company’s work is recognized for excellence in engagement alongside our inaugural class of winners. Click here to view the categories or click here to get started.