Sens fans should be heard but a billboard is not the way.

Buying outdoor advertising space in front of the Canadian Tire Centre and a page in the Ottawa Sun will effectively get the attention of hockey fans alike. It will be cool to see and feel good for a minute.  Great, then what?

There is a small movement of people putting their hard-earned money into a GoFundMe page to remove Eugene Melnyk as owner (and now CEO) of the Ottawa Senators. When I saw the initiative hit over a thousand dollars, I shed a tear.  Wasted money is something that makes me sick to my stomach, so I must weigh in with some ADvice.

Buying outdoor advertising space in front of the Canadian Tire Centre and a page in the Ottawa Sun will effectively get the attention of hockey fans alike. It will be cool to see and feel good for a minute.  Great, then what?

For two years, I managed a store where two brands brought in the most revenue. My sales team leaned mostly on these brands for their commission as they had strong brand loyalty. The problem was the store could not survive on selling two brands alone. After trying to appeal to the market with promotions and sales but still not yielding the necessary revenue to grow the success of other brands it was time to decide; keep bleeding money or find a new retail market that may have a more aligned customer base or a sales team that can diversify its portfolio. Eventually, the store closed.

That is not what I want for the Ottawa Senators. Trading players and management changes are inevitable when a team is not performing or selling seats. You can’t just sit back and blame the customers (fans) you must continuously innovate your product (team) to adjust or you close shop.

For what it’s worth, here are my business, fan, and Ottawa resident opinions about the struggle to sell Ottawa Senator’s ticket sales:

  • Ottawa is a walk-up town when it comes to ticket sales. Concert promoters, festival organizers and theatre companies are always shocked and reluctant to take risk in the Ottawa market because of how last minute their tickets sell. Countless clients of mine have nervously called me to ask what the heck was going on, should they pull, only to be pleasantly surprised with last-minute results. (most of the time)
  • Ottawa has one of the cheapest price points for an NHL ticket yet many losing teams in major markets are sold out game after game. Business’ are the majority of ticket purchasers allowing for very little seats for their walk-up fans. After working for five years in media sales, I can tell you there is a lot of private business in Ottawa but getting their dollars is ruthless.  The largest employer in town is actually the government who cannot buy season tickets, Club Bell packages or suites. This cuts the ability of a sales person to sell marketing tactics dramatically compared to other similar sized cities.
  • The troubles with the Phoenix pay system has taken homes, cars, and affluent families down a notch to the point they are petrified to make any entertainment purchases with their disposable income. Given the largest employer in Ottawa is the federal government perhaps fans are looking at the wrong person to blame for low ticket sales.

I cannot comment on what the exact problems are within the Ottawa Senators Sports and Entertainment group as I know what you know and that is only what the media covers.  Eugene Melnyk is not going to sell the team. As recently as December 2017, he denounced all rumours of a sale.  I remember an interview on 580 CFRA  when he remarked, “I’m not selling the team…what would I do (instead) buy art?”

As a fan, I do hope they figure it out in a way that keeps them here; however, I am not naïve enough to think my love for Karlsson is going to motivate Melnyk to keep losing money.  I did not have much respect for him when witnessing his lack of passion for Ottawa at the Winter Classic but when I heard him take office at the CTC I was impressed enough to recognize that he just may be trying to make things work for the sake of his investment and the fans.

Providing a couple of hundred dollars towards a paid social media campaign would at least have a better return on investment for those needing some tangible evidence of their Melynyk revolution. Fans tweeting, posting, and instagraming #melnykout has a farther reach and impression than a billboard seen only by those that bought a ticket on the way to the Sens’ game or what is left of the Ottawa Sun’s readership.

Instead of spending your money on an ineffective advertising campaign with an unattainable objective, donate your dollars to the Sens Foundation or enjoy the next Sens game at the Canadian Tire Centre. For those of you that simply can’t afford to go (I know I can’t) get yourself some local craft beer and enjoy the game on your comfy sofa. Keep sharing your opinions but please, not without some sensible return on your investment.







Avoiding the black hole of advertising….step one.

Small, medium, and large business owners are all trying to find the key to unlock the mystery of advertising.  When I used to call on businesses and suggest using xx media as their place to advertise, often I could hear their frustration before I finished my first sentence.  At first, I thought the frustration was from the number of cold calls they had received that week but it wasn’t just that. It was the recollection of their money being thrown into a black hole of unknown results.


Developing a marketing and advertising strategy can seem like a waste of time to a small business owner. For many, they base their advertising decisions on personal preferences rather than the preferences of their customers.  Why?  Because they don’t truly know their customers. When asked to identify who their customers are, a typical response was either “everyone!” * or:

-Adults aged 25 to 54

-Income 100K+

-Own a home

The problem with this ‘target’ is about a million other businesses in a million industries have the same ‘target’.  Want to know the easiest way to identify your target customer?

Here is your first ADvice: Ask your existing customers!  Do your own in-store field research! It is the best way to get real, genuine information.

So, than is a 50-page marketing strategy necessary for small business?  No, but having a clear and concise direction to give you confidence in your advertising decisions is key to staying sane when choosing to which cold call to say yes.

Take the first step today and ask your next five customers these questions to get started:

We’re trying to learn more about our loyal customers, so we stay relevant. May I ask you a few questions?

Do you live in the area?  (helps to know if your customers come from far so you can decide if mass media is a good option or just the local newspaper)

What brings you in today? (this can help with deciding to advertise during sales only or more consistently throughout the year)

Have you considered other options?  (who are your main competitors?)

These questions are examples to get your mind going.   Comment below to let me know how it goes!

 *If you are targeting “everyone!” you are targeting no one.