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Pucks and PR

Because hockey is more than just a game

In an industry where competition is high, contracts are big and skill is unmatched, there are few people as influential as the low paid, average skilled and somewhat competitive BizNasty.

For the uneducated reader, BizNasty is Paul Bissonnette, a depth player for the Phoenix Coyotes. As I thought about writing an article on how players are becoming individual brands within professional hockey, my mind kept being drawn back to BizNasty.

Last weekend I listened to Theo Fleury give an interview at a late night show in Calgary. He spoke about modern hockey players becoming individual brands. With a team of personal trainers, media coaches, nutritionists, etc., these players essentially market themselves to teams leading up to entry drafts and then likewise market themselves to fans as they become professionals.

And yet, as I thought about the recent draft and how this is being done, I couldn’t help but admit that Bissonnette has actually pulled off the most successful grassroots branding that I can think of in professional sports.

Bissonnette is a former fourth round selection. He has suited up in 104 NHL games with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Coyotes. In those 104 games he has all of seven points and 210 PIMs. Capgeek.com lists his cap hit at just over $600,000. From a stats perspective, Bissonnette should be one of the least influential players in the NHL. But the reality is that he is one of the most.

BizNasty has taken a social forum, and through blunt, hilarious and sometimes controversial statements, has become a household name in hockey.

While the NHL markets players based on skill, BizNasty markets himself as being anything but. In fact, his entire brand is founded on a basis of being average.

He Tweets about his parents, his truck, homeless people and random everyday happenings. It’s the perfect use of Twitter. Funny, responsive and truthful.

His brand is so loved that when comments about Ilya Kovalchuk forced his first account to be closed, fans and media alike were clamouring for his return. Before long, he was back.

While other players and even companies may not want to replicate his blunt take on life and hockey, they can certainly learn a lot from his fundamentals. On Twitter – not on the ice.

Bissonnette has committed to an identity that is unique and recognizable. He’s BizNasty to fans, media and fellow players. He has drawn people into the brand with a product – entertaining and confusingly relatable observations. He has gotten his fans/customers to stay committed by being responsive and interactive. He doesn’t just Tweet his thoughts. He responds to others’ and acknowledges his ‘lovers and haters’ alike. And he has taken the brand from online to print, TV, radio and in person. Throughout interviews and appearances he is BizNasty. It cleverly brings people to his online presence from other mediums. And most important, he has found a way of being more than just a short term amusement. People continue to be drawn to him.

By being himself, BizNasty has garnered as much attention as some of the highest paid and most skilled players in the NHL. He has been in commercials, has a line of t-shirts and was even a guest columnist on TSN. That is an amazing feat of branding and marketing.

The lesson to be learned from BizNasty is that a brand doesn’t have to be complicated. But is has to be real. Some may say he now panders to the BizNasty identity, but the simple fact is that every comment and Tweet feels real. Marketers and PR specialists are often guilty of over thinking. Simple and real is often best. Customers react positively when they can relate to a brand and what it represents. If the brand isn’t based on a company’s fundamental beliefs, identity and values, then no amount of creative marketing will sell it. When people commit to their brand, customers can commit to it to.

And all this can be learned from a guy from Welland who observes life and asks the important questions…

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