Professional teams have always been part of the community in which they reside. Though being involved makes the franchise a good corporate citizen, it also helps grow the fan base and creates goodwill between fans, the franchise and ownership.
At the USC Marshall Sports Business Institute’s “Business of Hockey” event, the first installment of its “Business of Team Sports” series, Luc Robitaille, Los Angeles Kings President of Business Operations, and Michael Schulman, Anaheim Ducks CEO, addressed how their teams work with the community through multiple methods.
Robitaille explained how the Kings’ players should be involved in the community, and cited the point of view of longtime hockey executive Brian Burke:
Brian Burke always said, ‘If our players don’t want to go out in the community, they can go play for another team’ . . . I know the Ducks players are really out there in the community and so are our guys. We make sure that our guys don’t take for granted what they have and even though their jobs are demanding it’s important to go [out in the community].
The Ducks use a similar line of thought, starting from the top of the organization. Schulman pointed out that the team’s owners, the Samuelis, “are pretty involved in philanthropy . . . they’ve dedicated to pass most of their wealth on to charity.” That generosity trickles down to players:
We have players who donated their money and time – Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf – when they signed their contracts. We have programs where we’re doing for free, based on their [Perry and Getzlaf] money where we give any person who goes [a chance] to learn to skate. We’ll give them the equipment for free, teach them for free, and it’s sold out to the walls. It’s a very exciting program.
These efforts help create young hockey fans that hopefully become Kings and Ducks fans. It also shows the community that the organizations are invested in its fans, that the Kings and Ducks don’t just see dollar signs when they look out in the community. Both teams are involved in a number of ways: from exhibits at the Discovery Science Center in Santa Ana, Calif., to involvement with children’s hospitals and Ronald McDonald House to promoting youth and high school hockey programs.
Hockey isn’t endemic to Southern California, and the more these teams can be involved in the community, the better. At a time when many teams are being accused of taking advantage of municipalities with tax breaks, overcharging fans for tickets and looking only at the bottom line, the Ducks and the Kings are showing that teams can provide intangible benefits to their communities.
Michael Colangelo is Assistant Director at the USC Sports Business Institute and Senior Editor of The Fields of Green.