Merch Decorates Playoff Arenas

NHL and NBA Playoffs bring fresh and colorful In-arena promotions

  • by Tim Newcomb
  • Published: May 9, 2017

Seats covered with free T-shirts for fans at Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland. 

Fans bathe in a sea of gold in Nashville, as the Predators slide through the National Hockey League (NHL) playoffs inside Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, Tenn. Then there’s the yellow and white that blankets the wine-colored seats in Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland.

As NHL and National Basketball Association (NBA) teams march through their respective playoff pushes, in-arena promotions step up to provide something special for fans to mark the occasion, such as a T-shirt draped across every single seat in the arena.

“It helps transform the arena bowl into something different,” said David Kells, senior vice president of booking for Bridgestone Arena. “It is a different time for the fans and players and it is another exciting visual when you come out for morning practice and now the arena is gold. You know it is the big-time now.”

The Predators take the opportunity to embrace the T-shirt laden arena on social media throughout the day while giving fans that ‘aha’ moment when they enter the bowl and see the blue seats transformed. For those tuning in on television, the all-gold offers a distinctive look, one that then spills into the city the next day. “After the fact, you see people at the gym or walking the street and they have the ‘I was there kind of shirt,’” Kells said.

unspecified1.jpegT-shirts wrapped around seats at Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, for fans to discover.

In Cleveland, at Quicken Loans Arena, the Cavaliers may be hitting the hardwood and not the ice, but they have the same strategy, if not stepped up. The Predators have done T-shirts for the opening game of each of its playoff series, while the Cavs have done a different shirt for every home game of the playoffs. “When you hit the playoffs, everyone’s energy shifts,” said Tracy Marek, Cavaliers’ chief marketing officer. “Everything is more intense and we work hard on unity. We want to make sure our building looks really together. If they are all dressed in the same shirt, there is a camaraderie that comes with that.”

Marek said the Cavs work hard to ensure there is a home-court advantage and that the giveaway shirt doesn’t look anything close to the color the opposition will wear. “We work really hard so our building looks different.”

But it is more than shirts. The Cavs drape both a shirt and a rally towel on every seat for every game. And they’ve also added PixMob LED light-up bracelets at times, as have the Predators. “Our guest services teams come in here really early sometimes and take the time to go seat by seat,” Marek says. “It doesn’t look like it was tossed there, they lay them out so every seat has a presentation. It is an amazing environment to look at.”

The Cleveland shirts follow the team mantra of “Defend the Land” and tie to social media and other marketing pushes that have become a key piece of Cleveland’s fan base. “I think it is really about being able to come into the building and set a standard,” she said. “We are very proud of our fans and energy.”

In Boston, the Bruins, now eliminated from the NHL playoffs, opted to do something a little different from the T-shirt norm, going with rally towels every game and a large flag that passes through the lower bowl during player introductions.

Chris DiPierro, Bruins’ director of marketing, said the gold rally towels provide that interactive element, along with a consistency for fans since they have done the towel for every playoff game since at least 2009, including two Stanley Cup Final runs. With gold seats already in TD Garden, Boston, DiPierro said they simply hand the towels out at the turnstiles.

Whether towels or T-shirts, the promotional piece not only unifies an entire building, but it provides teams an added sponsorship opportunity. “We put different partners on the towels each game,” DiPierro said. “Our existing partners definitely like to jump on when we get to the playoffs and there is also an opportunity for new partnerships. Our guys will be out looking for new partners and this is a good opportunity to get involved in the excitement of the playoffs.”

Marek said the Cavs’ corporate partnership team has a selection of partners “super excited” for the opportunity to get involved and the marketing team has promotional ideas and collaborating partners planned out well in advance. “They want to be connected most to the fans,” she said.

Across both the NBA and NFL, the allure of the playoffs gives everyone a chance to step into the game. From additional celebrities jamming on the in-arena stage in Nashville to the 12,000-strong outside Quicken Loans Arena in the Gateway Plaza, just to be near the game, playoffs bring another level of intensity. And from yellow shirts in Oakland’s Oracle Arena to the white-out seen in Houston’s Toyota Center or the gold in Nashville and yellow in Cleveland, teams love the look of an entire arena bathed in unity.

  • by Tim Newcomb
  • Published: May 9, 2017