How the Winnipeg Jets Tell their Story in Midst of Historic Year

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The Jets have relied on a commitment to digital storytelling to boost their online brand, (Imagine via NHLJets on IG)

*Team Infographics is a Proud Partner of FOS 

In 1996, hockey fans in Winnipeg, Manitoba watched as their beloved professional hockey team, the Jets, was relocated to Arizona before winning an NHL playoff series. The region kept their passion for the sport, however, all through the NHL’s absence until 2011 when Atlanta’s franchise was relocated to Winnipeg. Now in 2018, that passion is on full display after the Jets’ defeated Minnesota in the opening round and continue their march through the playoffs.

There to capture the energy and fervor of Jets fans and the team they cheer for has been the organization’s digital team, led by True North Sports + Entertainment’ Director of Digital Andrew Wilkinson.

“We’re the smallest market in the NHL, but we have always had some of the loudest and most passionate fans in the league,” Wilkinson explains. “Obviously losing our NHL team in ’96 left a mark on our community (including myself) but it has been amazing to not only see how this city has been reinvigorated with the return of NHL hockey but to also have a key role in helping write this new chapter. There is a storied history of hockey in this city and it has been thrilling to not only see how our longtime fans have embraced the team since its return in addition to welcoming the new generations of Jets fans to be a part of it. We’re fortunate in that we don’t have to encourage our fans to show their passion for our team, most of the time our goal is to amplify what they’re doing already and show the world how great the city and our fans are.”

The intensity of Winnipeg hockey fans has been personified in the Jets’ social content all throughout the season and especially in their playoff slogan: “We Are Winnipeg”.

“Our slogan is really meant to speak to the pride that we all have in the city and that we’re proud of who we are, where we live and the values that we and the team embody,” said Wilkinson. “And you can clearly see that in our fans and how they consistently communicate that.”

It has also become a tradition for Winnipeg fans to whiteout the arena (and now street party) in order to show a collective unity while adding an intimidation factor to visiting teams. The white is also meant to match the aesthetic of the snowy weather that is common during Manitoba winters. This look has also beautifully bled over into the Jets’ digital presence.

“From its start in 1987, the Winnipeg Whiteout has really taken on a life of its own and it’s a tradition the city revels in,” added Wilkinson. “Fans dress in the most outlandish, fun, crazy outfits they can find or make that incorporates an element of white into it. We’ve seen everything from people wearing polar bear suits, wedding dresses, and everything in between, you name it and a fan has probably thought of it. We love to see their creativity.”

On the same level as the fans, Wilkinson and Social Media Manager John Delaney have made sure that the city of Winnipeg itself has remained a star in the heat of the Jets’ exposure by highlighting fan events throughout the city including the official street parties that have seen as many fans cheering the team on outside the arena as inside.

Strong video content is a big reason why since the start of the 2018 season, despite being the smallest market in the NHL, the Jets are in the top five growth rates for the league on both Facebook (3) [+3.32%] and Instagram (5) [+14.89%], and the top five interaction rates for Instagram (4) [3.01%] compared to the other 30 teams in the league.

This is also thanks in part to a stronger emphasis on pre and post-game live shows produced by Director of Hockey Content Ryan Dittrick and his JetsTV team.

This live content recently peaked in game five of round one vs the Minnesota Wild at 64,000 viewers of their post-game show. That number jumps to 98,000 when you include the pre and post-game show for game five. The Jets stream these shows through, the teams Mobile App, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages.

Since expanding their digital team to include people like Delaney as well as shifting their strategic focus, the Jets’ numbers across all of these platforms have reaped the benefits.

“Our focus has really been quality over quantity,” said Wilkinson. “We saw the changes in a lot of the algorithms of the mediums and we made a conscious effort to focus on the quality of what we’re putting out there and making sure that whatever we did we were measuring and making sure that it was content that was overperforming. A lot of the credit also has to go to Creative Services Director Josh Dudych and his team who continually create amazing looking still and motion graphics that are true to our brand and marketing campaigns.”

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The Jets have a renewed devotion to their Twitter voice as well.

“With Twitter, we’ve always had the same goals and we’ve tried to stay true to our voice. We always want that voice to be fun, positive, and authentic. We realize that we are in a hockey market that is very knowledgeable of the sport so we always want to make sure that we were authentic in our approach to it,” said Wilkinson. “Our challenge, like most teams, is balancing professionalism and being humble while finding opportunities to add personality where we can as we know that’s what many fans enjoy. That’s something we’ve really focused on this season, to add a little more playfulness into our account and John has been great with walking that line.”

To add to that authenticity, for the Jets WE ARE WINNIPEG playoff campaign they incorporated some locally born influencers to get fans excited about the start of the Playoffs and grow their social audience, including WWE wrestler Chris Jericho, musicians like Tom Cochrane and Chantal Kreviazuk as well as Amazing Race Canada Host and Olympic Gold Medalist Jon Montgomery. This has included video messages and tweets in support of the team as they continue their march through the playoffs.

While the Jets are now able to continue their social growth with a full creative services team, they turned to Team Infographics (TI) in years past in order to create and maintain a consistent brand image for themselves.

Team Infographics was great to work with. They were very open to marrying our brand and all the elements of it into the templates that they made for us. They were very open to feedback as we evolved, and that makes you feel comfortable using them as an extension of your team and brand,” said Wilkinson. “At the time, we had a very small digital content team who didn’t have a lot of time or experience with creative graphics from scratch, so TI allowed our team to be able to do that as part of their daily routine without having that background. We also knew that any challenges that would come up, they were very quick to be there to support us.”

As the Jets get set to face Nashville in the second round, fans in Winnipeg and all over Manitoba and Canada continue to rejoice as their perseverance is rewarded for the years without a team and struggles to get deeper into the postseason. As young digital professionals all over the world continue to work toward their dream jobs in sports, Wilkinson reminds them that perseverance pays off.

“I find there is not always a lot of opportunities open in sports compared to other industries because I think individuals that end up in these roles have a deep passion for sports and don’t always want to leave once they are in. For those that can get a foot in the door in any organization I would encourage them to put in the time, continue to learn from those around you, and earn the trust and respect of their colleagues by being willing to do whatever needs to be done as working in sports isn’t as glamorous as some think And most importantly, remember to have fun, even on those 14 hr. days with multiple deadlines and pressures I try and always remind myself how lucky I am to get to be working for such a great organization and in sports.”

Follow the Jets on all social platforms as they continue their playoff run @NHLJets.  

*Team Infographics is a Proud Partner of FOS