Standing Room Only: How the Predators Created a Juggernaut in Music City

June 12, 2017

Sidney Crosby and the Penguins won Lord Stanley’s Cup, but the story of the NHL season belongs to the Nashville Predators.

Music City is now also a hockey town. This year, they sold out all 41 regular season games. In fact, according to the 703,000 fans in attendance served as an encore to 2015-2016, when they had 35 sellouts and drew 695,828 fans.

Following the passing of marketing and advertising icon Jack Trout, who was the master of positioning, it’s fitting that the Predators have just taken another step to bringing their long held position to life.

As you might have guessed, selling hockey in Nashville has not always been easy.

According to Forbes, a decade ago the franchise was exploring the possibility of giving up the dream and relocating to Canada.

A local ownership group stepped up and brought in President and CEO Sean Henry, who also runs Bridgestone Arena in downtown Nashville. Together they developed One Goal, which is both clear eyed and incredibly ambitious for the one time fledgling franchise.

According to Henry, “This team is the center of everything we do, to the point where our goal as a company is to make Bridgestone Arena the No. 1 sports and entertainment facility built around a Stanley Cup Champion Predators hockey team — that’s it.” Worth noting, iconic venues like Madison Square Garden with a hockey team of their own, aren’t simply watching the world go by.

In addition to the hockey games, Bridgestone Arena hosts another 150-175 sold out events each year including the CMT Awards, which this year had to be relocated to the Music City Center due to the hockey playoffs.

Bridgestone Arena also is in the midst of an unprecedented 12 year agreement with the SEC to host a men’s or women’s conference basketball tournament each year in Nashville.

Passionate fans are nothing new in Tennessee, but the team has done a nice job of embracing those storied traditions. In a recent interview with the Hockey News, Henry said, “I think it’s a really healthy mix of SEC football, SEC basketball, NASCAR and the passion of what we think of the European soccer fans.”

In fact, the Predators have made a connection with their fan base like no other market in the league. It doesn’t hurt when just outside the arena is Lower Broadway, a world class entertainment district that fans can enjoy before, during and after the games.

Yet, tying it all together was no small feat.

In another recent interview, Henry describes the work involved, “When I first got here, I felt we had to connect what happened in the bowl to the excitement outside the building,” Henry said. “It’s like you hit our curb, and this boring lull hit and we took the excitement out of you almost with our plaza and our concourse until the game started and it built back up. So we did our best to raise the energy level so we could build upon the excitement you’re coming in with.”

Not only did Henry reinvigorate the fans, but he also reinvigorated the employees. “For whatever reason, and it was not intentional I am sure, but you had the Hockey Operations Department in one silo, you had the Hockey Operations Business in another silo, and then you had Building or Event Operations in another silo,” Henry said. Henry added, “Breaking down those barriers did so many great things for people’s careers, how you work and how you feel about yourself, but more importantly, the business.”

Energized employees, energized fans, energized business. All skating towards the same goal: making Bridgestone Arena the No. 1 sports and entertainment venue in the United States centered around a Stanley Cup Champion Nashville Predators hockey team.

A similar opportunity exists for radio, but it starts with us as an industry realizing that reach is not a position to be filled in the minds of advertisers or listeners.

AM/FM radio is the #1 source of entertainment for employed persons in the car and at work.

Everybody loves a winner. If radio is #1, by definition, everything else from Facebook to Spotify to podcasts, even with Apple now releasing data, is just playing catch up.

We already occupy an amazing position with employed persons. If we only believed it enough to resist the urge to try and be everything to everyone, which forces radio into a preoccupation with reach; despite its proven inability to generate revenue growth.

On behalf of Catherine Jung, Doug Smith and everyone at DMR/Interactive, thanks for reading and working to drive radio forward.

Andrew Curran, President and COO