A Closer Look Into One of the NHL’s Best Marketing Strategies

If you live in or around Pittsburgh, it’s likely you’ve heard of the Pittsburgh Penguins, but have you ever thought about the marketing strategy behind the Penguins organization? Does a sports team in Pittsburgh even really need a marketing strategy? Well, they do. To keep growing its fan base, the Penguins have had to continually evolve their marketing campaigns.

In 2007, the Penguins began targeting their fans through mobile technology when they worked in collaboration with Vibe Marketing Group. Both parties worked to create the Pens Mobile Club(1), which has, since 2010, expanded into the Pens App. The creation and promotion of the Pens Mobile Club increased the membership of their club from approximately 14,000 members to 74,000 members(1). The Pens App has many features, including updates throughout the game and Game Day Previews. Videos and articles fill the home page of the app covering topics from “Verizon Coach’s Corner” to “Pet Calendar Shoot.” Through the app, fans can also sign up for the Pens Pass Last Minute Ticket Club. Once signed up, fans receive a text message when last minute tickets, including playoff games, are available in the FedEx Level or the Giant Eagle/Snapple Level. App users also have access to podcasts, Fan Central, and players’ stats throughout the season. The app is free and available to download for iPhone and Android users by searching “Pittsburgh Penguins” in the app store.

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Fast forward to 2010, the Penguins organization teamed up with Gatesman, Marmion, Drake, and Dave, Inc. to restructure its marketing campaigns(2). Coming out of the 2009-10 season, the Penguins finished fourth place in the Eastern Conference. This was an upsetting outcome based on the Penguins winning the 2008-09 Stanley Cup. To continue to incorporate the fans and continue to build upon their foundation, the Penguins presented their newest slogan “Destiny Has A New Home”(2).  An additional tie-in to this slogan, the Penguins were finding a new home in the Consol Energy Center (now PPG Paints Arena) at the beginning of the 2010 season. This move into a more modern arena from Mellon Arena (also known as the Igloo)  aided the Penguins in being able to be more technological when it came to marketing strategies and fan engagement. The marketing slogan helped to bring focus to this change, but also show the fans the continued commitment to excellence they came to expect of the Penguins.

The Penguins marketing team seems to identify early on what moves will be needed to keep up with current marketing strategies. Since 2010, and especially in the last three years, there has been an increase in the Penguins social media content becoming more geared towards fan interactions. No longer are its posts strictly related to the score of the game or other game-related information. The organization tends to focus on off-ice accomplishments and interactions more so in their social media – which helps grow that connection between fans and the organization. A prime example where the organization builds on previous posts made – last season the Penguins posted about the players’ love of Mario Kart. This season, the Penguins posted a video of Jake Guentzel and Patric Hornqvist playing a live-action game of Mario Kart. Matt Murray also announced yesterday that he will be making a $30 donation for every save he makes during the season as part of his “Saves MATTer” charity program(3). If this program would have been implemented last season, he would have donated over $38,000 to youth organizations(3). If you talk to fans, they feel like part of the Penguin’s family. Players are called by their first names and nicknames in casual conversation (i.e. Sid the Kid, Geno) and if you didn’t know better, you would think these fans were neighbors with the players. The Penguins really do a fantastic job of creating that connection between fans and players and having it be a positive experience for all involved.

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Even with the major overhaul in 2010, the Penguins continue to improve their interactions with their fans going into the 2018-19 season. This season, the Penguins are doing away with PensPoints and looking to launch a new program in November, the Pens Instant Win Program. Very little is known about this program because the organization is not relaying any information to the public at the moment.  

The Penguins are also active on multiple social media platforms, including Pinterest and Facebook. Although their Pinterest account hasn’t been updated for the 2018-19 season, fans can still follow many boards that include#PensValentines, Wedding on Ice, and Holiday HapPENings. The Penguins also have a fan interaction board for pets.

 

While creating content on multiple platforms, the Penguins seem to post the most content on their Twitter profile. The Penguins use this platform to interact with fans, as well as give game updates, practice updates, etc., which are typically in real time, as well as posting off-ice content. For example, I tweeted the Penguins and in less than 30 minutes, they had responded. You can also find many of the Penguins staff tweeting about behind the scenes information, like a sneak peek at Matt Murray’s mask before the preseason started (which garnered 619 Retweets and 4,070 likes) and their take on current happenings in the hockey community.  Two of the best examples for incorporating off-ice accomplishments into the Penguins marketing are posts about an article on Jake Guentzel’s rise to fame and Bryan Domoulin’s “hat trick of summers.” Plus, to no one’s surprise, a big “Happy Birthday” to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin together received 6,412 Retweets and 21,246 Likes. Their most recent high impact tweet was their reaction to the new Philadelphia Flyers mascot, Gritty, with over 15,000 Likes. The Penguins Snapchat and Instagram stories are great for behind the scenes look at warm-ups, practices, and time with the players – on and off the ice.

The Pittsburgh Penguins marketing strategy is much like its team; it has evolved through the years. It has found new ways to bring fans into the sport, just as it has brought new team members to the club. Yet it has maintained its loyal following, just as it has managed to maintain some of its key players, such as Mario Lemieux. It is easy to see how the Penguins tap into modern culture, while still looking back on great athletes that have passed through the organization, to include multiple generations of fans in the organization.

To date, the Penguins have a strong social media following and a solid fan base to lean on. However, to continue to bring new fans to the organization, the Penguins will have to maintain its current level of fan interaction through social media, as well as stay one step ahead of the current trends. When attempting to build the fan base, the mindset of listening to fans important, but the follow through with related actions is what will keep the Penguins at the forefront of many hockey fans’ minds. The KeyBank Challenge videos posted throughout the season seem to be a major selling point to fans who want to feel like they are getting to know the players more personally. This personal connection will not only help maintain the current fan base, but will continue to bring in more fans as the Penguins progress through the 2018-19 season.

 

 

  1. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/pittsburgh-penguins-score-on-marketing-power-play-with-vibes-media-103434534.html
  2. https://www.nhl.com/penguins/news/pens-launch-new-marketing-campaign/c-537777
  3. https://www.nhl.com/penguins/news/matt-murray-charity-program/c-300581156

China’s Import Ban Greatly Impacts America’s Recycling Market

Recycling has been a growing phenomenon ever since environmentalists persuaded the government to implement more sustainable means when dealing with household waste. Growing up in a suburb of Philadelphia, my elementary school teachers frequently instructed us on the proper ways to recycle, whether that was looking at the bottom of various recyclables like milk or egg cartons to see whether they had the proper number in the “recycle logo” that indicated if we should or not should place them in the blue recycling bins.

Back then, there was more of a stress on the “three-bin system” that separated trash, recyclables, and compost. We learned of the three R’s and sang in unison the catchy phrase, “reduce, reuse, recycle.” Although many people and businesses are becoming more environmentally friendly, it seems senseless to ask where exactly all of our recyclables end up.

Surprisingly, for years, merchants in China have been buying American recyclables to sift through the heaping pounds of trash to collect scrap paper and cardboard for packaging purposes. Thus, all of the trash Americans put in their blue bins on their curbs are being compressed into 1-ton bales and sold to other countries overseas.

Going against this “three-bin system”, America has recently been trying to place as much recyclables into one bin and then shipping the waste to China. The responsibility then falls onto China to sort out the waste. This service cultivated “third world-like sorting operations,” and thousands of poor, rural migrants were employed to filter through the enormous piles of waste to recover the usable materials and throw away the rest.

Meg 2- 07.12.18

Once the packing boxes are repurposed, they are then shipped back to the United States filled with Chinese-manufactured goods. China benefited greatly from business with America over the years because it is much cheaper to make cardboard or plastic using recycled material rather than making it from scratch.

To what extent does China impose on the importation of America’s recyclables? While the U.S. exports 30% of all recycled material, half of that 30% goes to China. According to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc., China imported 17 million tons for about $5.5 billion, in 2016. Although many regions of the U.S. export varying amounts to China, western states make up a large portion of China’s market in the exportation of recycled waste.

This repetitive cycle and synergistic relationship between China and the U.S. has been going on for years. Thus, it came as a shock to the U.S. in July of 2017 when Beijing notified the WTO of their plan to stop importing of “foreign garbage.” The ban would commence at the beginning of 2018.

The main reason for this regulation was that “large amounts of dirty wastes or even hazardous wastes [were being] mixed in [with] the solid waste that [could] be used as raw materials.” Ultimately, China has been trying to reduce their pollution rates by  implementing programs that will clean up their environment. The importing of America’s waste was causing a negative impact on China’s air with the large amounts of hazardous waste incorporated with the recyclable material.

Before the ban, most of the waste China imported was being thrown away in landfills. Thus, many of the recyclables that America believed were being reused were ultimately thrown away by China. Although many people have been recycling for years now, there is still a misconception as to what trash can be recycled and what cannot. Some materials that are found in recycling bins but should not be placed in them include: plastic grocery bags, grease-stained pizza boxes, and wax-coated frozen-food packages.

Speculations emerged saying China implemented this ban because Beijing “hopes to tap into its own growing consumer base as the foundation of its recycled materials industry.” A way for China to not experience the same environmental hazards when sifting through America’s waste is by implementing a rigorous program of inspecting piles of waste and sifting out the contaminated trash, food waste, or even materials with moisture in reject bales.

America has been highly dependent on China’s business in buying their “unwanted” materials. However, most Americans today have been unaware of these large exchanges with China throughout the years.

Consequentially, China’s import ban on America’s waste has caused the U.S. to frantically find a new market to purchase the recyclables. In the meantime, however, a large portion of the waste are being thrown away into landfills. This operation is the exact opposite of what recycling is supposed to do for the environment. It is astounding to know that in all of these years of recycling that China, not America, was the country reusing material for manufacturing. I assumed, while growing up, that America used their own facilities to operate on repurposing waste in hopes of being a more sustainable society. Sadly, I was wrong.

It is not uncommon for many organizations to have their products manufactured in China and then shipped back to America. One notable company is Hallmark, a manufacturer of greeting cards, based in Kansas City. Due to an increase in competition from the Internet, Hallmark has been “outsourcing its workforce overseas for the past decade.”

For any special occasions, Hallmark offers greeting cards that are made from 100% recycled material. These cards are much cheaper compared to other Hallmark cards. If one were to look at the back of these eco-friendly cards, one would most likely see the phrase: “Made in China.” It would not surprise me that Hallmark has been manufacturing many of their products abroad because of China’s large operations with repurposing cardboard and plastics. It will be interesting to see if China’s ban on the importation of America’s recyclables will have any impact on Hallmark.

America, a modernized country that is highly innovative in technology, has a societal duty to protect the environment. Therefore, the United States will have to put in more energy and attention to this issue of recycling in finding safer and cleaner ways of reusing material other than relying on countries overseas. Because the U.S. government has been in charge of this trade with China, I speculate that the government will try to find the easiest and cheapest way in disposing of our recyclables. I am certain that most Americans are unaware of these operations with China. Thus, I hope more people will learn about what really happens to their waste and support the need for the U.S. to actually recycle instead of throwing away the recyclables in landfills or exporting the remains to other countries.

 

Sources:

https://www.usnews.com/news/national-news/articles/2018-03-27/china-doesnt-want-your-trash

https://www.pitch.com/news/article/20601279/hallmark-cares-enough-to-send-the-very-best-jobs-to-china

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/recycling-you-may-be-doing-it-wrong-180951192/

 

Whistleblower: Kelly Cole’s Lawsuit on the University of Pittsburgh

The social movement in which people are more ethically conscious of their actions has been greatly emphasized in recent years. Especially throughout the business world, corporations have implemented many codes of conduct for employees and managers to assess their actions and determine if their decisions are ethical

As a student at the University of Pittsburgh, I have taken many courses that teach the importance of ethical decision making and corporate social responsibility. Many benefits can be seen when organizations base their decisions on the ethical decision-making model, while companies that do not act ethically have drastic consequences. Such an example can be seen in many University scandals, such as the highly controversial legal investigation of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s creation of fraudulent classes to help student athletes maintain eligibility.

Given the fact that Pitt teaches their students on how to act ethically, the university experienced an ethical dilemma that dealt with their research department and is now faced with a lawsuit for wrongful termination. A former immunology professor and Regional Biocontainment Laboratory associate director, Kelly Stefano Cole, assisted with the work at the regional biocontainment laboratory. Kelly had reported the escape of an infected monkey in the lab back in 2016. She stated that the monkey was infected with a select agent and its whereabouts were unknown for several hours. Kelly thought this issue should be classified as an exposure incident following the definition of a select agent from the Centers for Disease Control, in which they state, “biological agents and toxins that have the potential to pose a severe threat to public health and safety, to animal and plant health, or to animal or plant products.”

Cole thought it was appropriate to report the matter as an exposure incident and contacted her superiors, Stitt-Fischer and Bill Yates, to report to the Environmental Health and Safety Department, as well as the National Institutes of Health. Both Stitt-Fischer and Bill Yates instructed Cole not to report. The university’s biological safety officer, Molly Stitt-Fischer, classified the escape of the monkey as an accident and not a safety violation

However, there were many instances that can be seen as questionable. When Cole reviewed the university’s official report on the incident of the infected monkey, she found that the information was inaccurate; the duration from when the monkey had escaped was recorded as much shorter than the actual several hours it had been unsupervised.

That same year, 2016,  Cole had also reported a purposefully contaminated animal: a rabbit, to have escaped for some length of time. Luckily, both the monkey and the rabbit did not escape from the research building and into the public campus.

After Cole had reported these incidents, the university and the staff had begun to treat her differently. She would receive official complaints on trivial infractions. While her colleagues acted in similar manners, they were not subjected to any rebukes like Cole. Cole’s privileges to the laboratory in its full capacity were later revoked, and eventually she was fully denied access to the premises and many university services.

Cole was eventually dismissed from her job. The lawsuit claims that the University of Pittsburgh violated the Pennsylvania Whistleblower Law. The law is intended “to protect employees of both public and private organizations, and allow victims of retaliation to file a civil lawsuit to recover damages.” Cole is seeking compensation from lost wages and benefits, as well as harm to her reputation and humiliation. She filed in January 2018 in the Allegheny County Common Pleas Court.

The lawsuit is still being processed and we await to hear the verdict of the court.

From an outsider’s perspective, it seems only right that Cole would report the incident. Thus, I was puzzled at the fact that the institution would punish Cole’s actions and dismiss her entirely. Had the infected monkey escaped the premise, many people, especially the research department, would most likely applaud Cole’s decision of reporting the incident. However, because there was no harm done to anyone, the head researchers wanted to pretend as though nothing had happened.

Most people would agree that it is always better to be safe than sorry. Learning about the ethical decision-making model in my managerial ethics class, Cole followed protocol and seemed to follow along with the steps to make a ethical decision in reporting the infected monkey with the accurate duration that it escaped. I hope to see that Cole will receive what she asks in the lawsuit against the university because the treatment she received from her colleagues seemed very unprofessional and just plain disrespectful. No one deserves to have their career and reputation smothered from an action one believed to be right.

Many of my friends are affiliated with the research department at the university. They told me that from the university’s point of view, the culture of research is to be as confidential as possible so as to not scare the public. They must make their work confidential and a form of secrecy is common in that line of research. Although this may be the culture, it still does not validate how the university treated Cole by ultimately terminating her position. It will be interesting to see the results of the lawsuit and witness if Kelly Cole will receive justice for her actions.

 

Sources:

1.http://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2018/01/30/Pitt-kelly-stefano-cole-immunology-sues-lab-whistleblower-animals-escaped-infected/stories/201801300161

2. http://dailycaller.com/2018/01/30/escaped-infected-monkey-university-of-pittsburgh/

3. http://statelaws.findlaw.com/pennsylvania-law/pennsylvania-whistleblower-laws.html

4. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/early-lead/wp/2017/10/13/after-years-long-investigation-ncaa-finds-no-academic-violations-at-north-carolina/?utm_term=.a1dcea006238