Marketing / 11.05.19
The Golden Knights Bring the Spectacle (and the Heart) in Winning Fans Near and Far
There’s an old saying, “I went to a fight last night … and a hockey game broke out!” Well, since October 2017, puck fans in Sin City have been saying, “I went to a hockey game last night … and a Vegas show broke out!” In this case, quite literally.
The Vegas Golden Knights have become one of the hottest tickets in professional sports, and that’s due to several factors. One, night in and night out at their home games, they put on one of the best shows around. Two, their fan outreach has been, simply, some of the best. And, three, for a young team, they’ve enjoyed tremendous early success, even reaching the Stanley Cup finals in their inaugural season.
The festivities start the moment the doors open. There’s a pre-game show known as “Knight Time” that has to be seen to be believed. Todd Pollock, Vice President of Ticketing and Suites for the Golden Knights, says, “It might be the most insane and unique opening in sports. It very much has a Vegas touch with the entertainment in town, and it’s not for everyone. But it’s certainly for our fans. They love it! It’s a show before the show, and we are so proud of all our cast and the amazing work they’ve done. This year, the [Golden Knight’s] infamous sword has been stolen, and there is a cowboy element with our owner — yes, our owner, Bill Foley — in a helicopter tracking them down! It’s pure spectacle.”
The team also has its own complement of showgirls, known as the Vegas Belles. Each home game, The Belles stand by the glass near the end boards as the Knights’ opponents warm up on their half of T-Mobile Arena ice. Their gold costumes are adorned with large, feathered headpieces, and they can be quite the distraction. You can’t miss them any more than you can miss the giant Knights’ helmet that descends from the arena’s rafters.
“We take great pride in being different,” Pollock says, gleefully stating the obvious. “We really get the crowd amped up before we even drop the puck. And every game is different. We’ve had a wedding proposal in the first period, and then the actual ceremony in the third period! We’ve welcomed back military heroes. We’ve had Cirque du Soleil perform at intermission and much more. You have no idea what to expect, and that’s what makes our games so fun.”
Having no idea what to expect is part of the challenge of playing in Entertainment Capital of the World. Most NHL teams don’t have the attractions and distractions that this franchise must compete with. So, is there added pressure to “put on a show” each night because the Knights are playing in Las Vegas?
“Our team views it more as an opportunity,” Pollock says. “We are fortunate to work and live in the entertainment and sports capital of the world with some of the most talented performers anywhere. That said, we know we have to compete with all the acts performing nightly on the Strip, so that actually motivates us to be more innovative and cutting edge than ever. Now that the foundation has been laid, our fans expect, without a doubt, a great show.”
There’s another challenge, too. Undeniably, the Golden Knights get more out-of-town hockey fans than most other NHL teams at their home games. Adjustments have had to be made. For example, the Knights initially offered blocks of tickets to fans traveling from other cities. But that meant sections of their arena were filled with opposing fans. The decision was ultimately made to spread out those visiting fans to give home games a different and better feel. The team may still be selling those seats to out-of-towners, but it’s not selling them together. The Golden Knights now only sell blocks of tickets to local fans and organizations.
“Our goal is to create the best home ice in the National Hockey League,” Pollock says. “While we welcome — and our fans are so hospitable to — visiting fans, our focus is on local folks who live in Vegas, Summerlin, Henderson, Clark County, etc. There’s no denying that the 42 million-plus people who visit Vegas every year will attend, and we love putting on a show for them. But our focus is really on growing our local fan base.”
To this end, Foley has spent tens of millions of dollars from enhancing the fan experience in games to community outreach efforts. In building their practice facility in suburban Summerlin, for instance, the Knights added two additional sheets of ice to the three pre-existing ones around Vegas, which meant more opportunities for residents to learn to skate and eventually learn to play hockey. Thousands of young fans have been through Knights-sponsored “Learn to Skate” programs. Hundreds of others have joined the Lil’ Knights Program, which prepares them for travel teams.
The Vegas Golden Knights have also been celebrated for everything from giving game tickets to service members to donating to various charities. “We have hosted dozens of youth hockey clinics, added curriculum into Clark County Schools, donated gear and so much more,” Pollock says. “Our team has made a concerted effort to get into the community, be visible and enhance the lives of the youth in Las Vegas.”
This need for community outreach began very early on in the franchise’s existence. Their first season was marred early on with the Oct. 1, 2017 mass shooting on the Vegas Strip that left 58 dead and hundreds more wounded. The tragedy gave the team a rare opportunity to win the hearts of locals with compassion before the very first puck ever dropped. Players visited shooting victims, money was given to charities and the team put together a powerful pre-game tribute before the first home opener. And on the last home game of the regular season, they retired jersey No. 58 to remember the 58 people who lost their lives in the worst mass shooting in modern American history.
“It can’t be understated, but we have a motto in the office. ‘Community Is a Contact Sport, Just Like Hockey!’ That’s something we live and breathe every day,” Pollock says. “Through our VGK Foundation efforts, player appearances in the community, speaking engagements, 51/49 raffle proceeds to charity and countless more examples, we really pride ourselves on being ‘Vegas Born.’”
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Tags: Sports , Social Media , Venues , Leadership