Next week, Perry Cooper, senior vice president of Digital Media, is speaking at the Forrester Consumer Forum in Chicago.  In preparation for this event, I had the opportunity to learn about how the NHL is empowering it fans and delivering demonstrable results using social media. 

The league is leveraging digital media in many ways to produce benefits for fans, sponsors and the NHL.  One such program was #NHLTweetup, which saw the league sponsor fan tweetups in locations such as Chicago, Nashville and New Zealand.  The program was run at minimal cost to the league; the investment included 250 man hours, 13 pieces of autographed merchandise and gift bags with a total value of just $1,000.

The power of combining Twitter and real-world events is pretty easy to recognize, but the NHL took the time to quantify it.  This program created results for the NHL in at least three ways: 

  • Reach and impressions:  Out of 150 people who attended one NHL tweetup in New York City, 100 of them had Twitter personas that could be analyzed.  The NHL found out each fan had an average of 213 followers per person.  Extrapolating this across all of those who attended the international events, the league estimates that the program created impressions on more than 230,000 people via Twitter.  Of course, the social impressions didn’t stop there — the tweetups resulted in the most blog posts the sport had seen since the NHL Winter Classic. 
  • Relationships and future engagement: Like any successful social media program, this one boosted fans and followers, creating deeper relationships and more opportunities for future engagement.   The NHL tracked not only growth of its own Twitter accounts but also upticks in the Twitter followers of key players.
  • Traditional PR:  The league planned for and executed smart PR around the tweetups.  As the RSVPs were tallied, the NHL gauged the size of events and worked on alerting local and national media.  Getty covered the event in NYC, marketing press (such as Adweek and Ad Age) shared the story and local media (including the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Vancouver Sun) added to the impact of these events. In the end, the NHL counted more than 400 mentions in the media. 

The NHL continues to integrate social media into its marketing and relationships.  On April 21, the league implemented Facebook’s Open Graph on, resulting in a 167% increase in Facebook “likes” within a few months.  Facebook, which once was’s 19th best referrer now ranks as the sixth top referrer to the site, and Facebook visitors average considerably more time, greater numbers of video views and total number of articles read per visitor than the site average.

While the is doing a great job of measuring the digital impact of its social media marketing programs, I’m curious about the financial and brand impacts.  How is social media helping to drive more fans in seats or purchases of NHL merchandise?  And how have their efforts on Twitter and Facebook helped to drive strong affinity?  I hope to ask these questions while enjoying Perry’s presentation, “The Empowered NHL: Inspiring Hockey Fans to Act Like Hockey Fans Through Digital Media and Big Events.”