The year was 2009 and the Nashville Predators were struggling. Ticket sales were down. Seats were sitting empty on game nights. Their fan base had stagnated. It all took a toll on the team itself.
That’s when GS&F got involved.
From our perspective, the challenge wasn’t to sell hockey. Too many locals were unfamiliar with the sport. And you certainly couldn’t educate an audience that wasn’t interested in learning about a sport they didn’t know. For us, the solution was to change the whole dynamic.
So instead of looking at hockey as a game, we portrayed it as entertainment—on steroids. We knew hockey was the most intense form of entertainment possible: flashy, noisy, visceral and unforgettable. A night with the Predators was more than a couple of hours at a hockey game. Because you didn’t just watch a game. You celebrated on Lower Broad beforehand. You met in clubs, bars and restaurants afterwards. You were invited to a party downtown whenever the Predators played. And sitting in the arena above the ice, every fan became part of the game itself.
To convey that kind of an experience, GS&F reached back to the team’s origin. We saw power and life in a word that had been coined when the franchise was first launched. That word was “Smashville.”
Now, we couldn’t claim credit for “Smashville.” That word was coined by the Pred’s marketing team during the second season. But GS&F recognized the potential of the word “Smashville” to capture the new extreme entertainment experience, as well as the need to bring it back to life and give it meaning that would resonate with a whole new generation of potential fans.
We segmented our audience to deliver messages relevant to each—couples looking for a more exciting date night, families in search of new family-friendly activities, friends looking for a night on the town, etc. We used television commercials to create a sense of the place we saw as “Smashville,” a fully realized entertainment environment that revolved around an evening spent with the Predators. And then we invited them to join us there.
It worked. Tickets started selling. Butts started filling seats. Even the NHL broadcasters around the country joined in, picking up the word “Smashville” and making it a recurring part of their vocabulary during game broadcasts.
As the saying goes, the rest is history. The work we did for the Predators will always be important to us. And although GS&F can’t take credit for the playoff performance of the Predators this season, we certainly take pride in our contribution to the team and its success.
So here’s to “Smashville.” Let’s go, Predators!