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Red becoming on Panthers, if they can become winners again


panthers-jersey.jpg

Red is the most eye-catching color, intense and riveting.

The Florida Panthers have been making effective use of it this summer as a branding agent for rebuilding a tattered image into a fresh connection to passion and aggression with a link to the early part of their history when they were successful.

That is exemplified in the new blood-red jersey unveiled during last week’s draft and modeled by the team’s selections including Edward Wittchow, above. This version adds contemporary styling to the one worn by old favorites Mellanby, Skrudland, Lindsay and the Beezer when the Panthers were the scrappy little team that battled its way to the Stanley Cup Finals.

What’s your verdict on the new-old look?

I welcome it. Never felt any attachment to the baby blue-and-black number of the recent past that had the more realistic panther face inside a circle shield (sported below by former Panther Bryan McCabe). Looked like a scared kitty inside a life ring, which those teams were often in need of. Always thought the snarling, leaping logo with claws and fangs bared was one of the best symbols in pro sports.

Ultimately, slick marketing and graphics are only as effective as the product being offered. The Panthers have delivered false starts and disappointment for so long that a healthy measure of skepticism is warranted. This franchise for too long has had its fan base seeing red in the other, undesirable connotation of irritation and annoyance.

The leadership of GM Dale Tallon does seem to be providing some genuine reason for hope. The acquisitions of Brian Campbell and Tomas Kopecky, veterans who have won championships, lend credibility heading into free agency beginning July 1. Campbell said in a radio interview this week on WQAM that he has received calls from other players who are interested in following his path to South Florida.

(To keep track of players available in free agency and who goes where, follow the Free Agency Microsite at FloridaPanthers.com).

Clearly the new-look Panthers have succeeded in grabbing some attention. By that measure the marketing strategy is paying off, and the regime under Tallon is gaining credibility.

It will be worth watching this summer to gauge how watchable the Panthers will be when they hit the ice.

“It’s about making people understand there’s a change going on,” Panthers President and COO Michael Yormark said last week before the draft. “We’ve got a new owner, a new GM, we have an entirely rebuilt hockey operations department, we’ve hired a new coach.

“The majority of players who will be introduced on opening night will be new players. There’s a lot of new blood. And so it was import for us to make sure people understood this isn’t the same old Panthers.”

In the recent past the team’s marketing ploys were more creative than the product on the ice. That was reflected in promotions linked to the success of other teams.

The Panthers’ Fit For King ticket promotion offered seat prices tied to LeBron James’ uniform numbers after he signed with the Heat. The Perfect Season, Perfect Price promotion played on the Dolphins’ undefeated season of 1972 with tickets priced at $19.72.

“This summer it’s less about the gimmicks and more about the substance, more about repositioning the brand and getting people excited about hockey,” Yormark said. “We got away from that. It’s important to get back to the basics. At the end of the day we’re selling hockey, we’re also selling entertainment.”

Last January the Panthers offered a Good Time Guarantee whereby fans could ask for their money back if they weren’t satisfied with their experience at a game. Yormark said only 12 fans made the request, and that the team was able to entice all of the disgruntled fans back to additional games without awarding the refund.

The complaints, he said, all related to customer service. The cynic might suggest that Panthers fans had long since lowered their expectations of the product on the ice.

Turning cynics into believers is the challenge for a long-downtrodden franchise that has gone 10 years without a playoff appearance.

“At the end of the day we’ve got to have a winning team on the ice. Ten years being out of the playoffs is too long,” Yormark said. “We’ve survived, but that’s not good enough. We’ve got to put a product on the ice that competes every night, is entertaining, and most important, that wins. We just have to deliver.

“All we can do is ask our fans is to judge us on what we’re doing now.”

JetBlue renews Panthers partnership

While everything else is trending red for the Panthers, they retained a link to their baby-blue period by signing JetBlue Airways as Official Airline Partner of the team and the BankAtlantic Center.

“Over the last two years, JetBlue has enjoyed a strong relationship with the BankAtlantic Center and the Florida Panthers, one of the fastest growing franchises in South Florida,” said Marty St. George, senior vice president of marketing and commercial strategy for JetBlue Airways.

JetBlue’s sponsorship includes joint marketing promotions and advertising exposure inside the BankAtlantic Center, on the arena’s outdoor marquees and through SSE’s print, radio, television, online and social media assets.

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Categories: Florida Panthers (108)


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About the author
CRAIG DAVIS In more than 33 years at the Sun Sentinel, Craig Davis has written about a wide variety of sports topics from baseball to yachting, fishing to triathlons, and also worked as a copy editor and page designer. Recently he reported on local sports, including running, swimming, cycling, equestrian and beach volleyball. He enjoys sports as a participant as well as a spectator, is active in the South Florida running scene plays in the curling club at Saveology Iceplex. This blog offers a glimpse at the business side of sports in the interest of enhancing enjoyment of the games and sporting options as a spectator as well as a participant.
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