- Winning and successful marketing aren't necessarily linked in the National Hockey League.
- The team logo that sold the most merchandise in the U.S. last season was the San Jose Sharks, losers in 58 of 80 games. Next came the Los Angeles Kings, who just celebrated their 25th season of mediocrity.
- The Blackhawks were third in sales, and they haven't won a championship in 31 years. The Pittsburgh Penguins, who beat Chicago last June to win their second straight Stanley Cup, finished no better than fifth in receipts from items such as shirts, hats and coats.
- This season, however, the Hawks will make a renewed effort to finish first at the cash register as well as on the ice.
- The team plans to open its own retail store in late October at 325 N. Michigan Ave. and call it HawkQuarters. Criticized for years for failing to market their franchise better, this presence in the heart of downtown Chicago could help broaden the organization's fan base in the city.
- Just down the street, Tribune Co. has its own retail sports store, but you won't find as much Hawk merchandise there (or find it as prominently displayed) as you will Cubs, Bears, Bulls and White Sox material. Running fifth in this race for recognition, the Hawks have decided to try a new strategy in hopes of making a move.
- "It's not going to be just another sports store," said owner Bill Wirtz's son, Peter, director of marketing. "We are going to have the players at the store a lot and make it a place the fans come to interact with the team. We have done a lot of research the last two years to make sure we developed this idea correctly.
- "We are going to have a mini-scoreboard, a small version of the one at the Stadium. We are going to have a locker-room area that mirrors our team's locker room at the Stadium. We are going to display some historic items-skates, sticks and so on that were used for milestone goals or games.
- "We are going to have background sound such as a game being announced or the sounds of skates on ice. Maybe WLUP (the AM radio station that begins broadcasting Hawk games this season) will do a live broadcast from the store."
- "We view this store as a marketing move, not simply a chance to make some money. We are going into a prominent location."
- That alone doesn't assure success. For instance, Morrie Mages Sports at 620 N. La Salle didn't do a brisk business in Hawk merchandise last season even when the team was on its way to its first Cup final appearance since 1973.
- "Sales were lukewarm," said Jim Hlavin, assistant manager of this store. "We were disappointed. Hawk sales were only a quarter of the Bulls' sales. Our Bulls merchandise completely sold out a week after they won the championship again, but the Hawk items were discounted 50 percent this summer.
- "I'd hesitate to say their new store is going to be an off-the-wall success. We do a lot of tourist business at our store, and those people know the Bulls, Bears and the baseball teams much better than they do the Hawks."
- The NHL is making big strides, however, in providing more merchandise to its fans, according to Fred Scalera, general manager of retail licensing.
- "We didn't get actively involved in licensing until about five years ago, after other sports," he said. "But we had a 132 percent increase in NHL retail sales from July 1991 to June 1992 after having increased 90 percent in 1990-91 and 89 percent in 1989-90."
- Wirtz emphasized the merchandise at HawkQuarters won't be run-of-the-mill key holders and wristbands. The Hawks will feature their own line of clothing and sell autographed jerseys that players have worn in games, with a letter of authenticity from coach Darryl Sutter that the jersey was truly soaked with sweat at one time.
- How much is a Jeremy Roenick or Chris Chelios game jersey worth? The top price for star players is $1,000 and then the scale drops to $650, $500 and $300, depending on how well known the Hawk is.
- You better snap up those Dean McAmmond and Sergei Krivokrasov jerseys before these rookies hit the headlines this season and start being worth hundreds of dollars more.
- The Indian head logo used by the Hawks has received more exposure in movies than any other NHL insignia. In recent years, popular films such as "Wayne's World" and stars such as John Candy, Chevy Chase and Jim Belushi in their movies have displayed the Hawk jersey prominently for millions of viewers.
- "The Hawks are steeped in tradition," Scalera said. "That and the fact their logo has to be one of the best in sports makes them a big seller in the U.S. and Canada.
- "We'd like to see more clubs get involved in stores as they are doing. Their participation makes it more authentic for the fan."
- GRAPHIC (color): Scoring in the marketing game See microfilm for complete graphic. Source: Blackhawks, Major League Baseball, NBA, NFL Chicago Tribune.
Chicago Tribune September 4th 1992
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