• Loading stock data...
Friday, July 12, 2024

Hurricanes’ Emergency Goalie Win Also a Nimble Marketing Triumph

  • Within 14 hours, more than 3,000 T-shirt jerseys were sold in seven countries.
  • Hurricanes expect shorter shelf life than previous “Bunch of Jerks” moment.
emergency goalie
Feb 22, 2020; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Carolina Hurricanes emergency goaltender David Ayres (90) defends the goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena. Carolina defeated Toronto. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Hurricanes organization had a whirlwind weekend, as emergency goalie Dave Ayres led the team to a 6-3 win in Toronto, the first-ever recorded win by an NHL emergency goalie. The team, in turn, is trying to balance the historic night with a potentially catastrophic turn of events.

The 42-year-old Ayres, a zamboni driver for the AHL’s Toronto Marlies, has turned into an overnight sensation and potential sports story of the year, and the Hurricanes marketing team jumped into action mid-way through the third period Saturday night. Within an hour after the game finished, Carolina had a T-shirt jersey with Ayres name and number available for sale on the website. 

Within 14 hours on Sunday morning, more than 3,000 of the shirts had been sold in seven countries, according to the Hurricanes.

“It was nuts,” Mike Forman, Hurricanes vice president of marketing and brand strategy, said. “I wasn’t any different than any other fan, watching on TV at home, two teams in a tight playoff race and then the dominoes started to fall.”

In Toronto, the Maple Leafs scored on their first shots against Ayres after both of the Hurricanes roster goalies were injured in the game, bringing the score to 4-3. But Carolina played well in the third, scoring twice to extend the lead. That’s when Forman and his team kicked into action, texting back and forth. 

They knew a good T-shirt capturing a moment would sell well, following last year’s “Bunch of Jerks,” a phrase still symbolic of the team and the fun it has on the ice. As the third period continued to wind down, the team’s head graphic designer worked on a shirt and the retail team made sure a website link was ready for purchasing so the two could be launched at the same time. 

Forman credits the organizational buy-in, from ownership to his department, for working and trusting each other on such a quick turnaround. The release of the T-shirt within an hour of the game was quicker than the “Bunch of Jerks” shirt, which took about 18 hours. 

The team also quickly decided to share royalties – the details still in negotiation – with Ayres, with some proceeds also heading to kidney foundations. Ayres himself received a kidney transplant in 2004.

The Hurricanes were also quick to capitalize on the outsized attention the story brought, from a postgame locker room video to a general increase in social posts. Forman said outlets beyond sports media, including the Ellen DeGeneres Show have reached out – without realizing Ayres isn’t part of the Hurricanes organization. 

READ MORE: NWHL’s Marketing Flexibility Continues To Resonate With Brands

“I’m really proud of the content produced,” Forman said. “The video, social and editorial. That’s why you travel with a video producer, not just highlights of the game, but these moments you never know will happen. 

“It might look reactive, but there are proactive elements because you never know what might happen and you have to be prepared for the unexpected and I feel like we were with the right people there and people prepared here.”

The Hurricanes’ buy-in from the top-down when it comes to marketing has been evident since “Bunch of Jerks,” Vincenzo Landino, CEO of Landino Group, said. Ayres’ win and ensuing hours was what teams should aspire to when it comes to marketing, Landino said.

“That is the kind of nimble environment organizations want to build,” he said. “It allows social and marketing teams to respond to things that happen over the course of a season organically. There’s no knee jerk reactions, rather, well thought out, authentic response. 

“The season is long, and players have stories outside of skating on the ice. Leveraging these stories to band a fan base together is the difference between doing a good job and doing a great job.”

While the moment is historic and viral for the Hurricanes, it also represents a potentially bittersweet turn of events in the season. In the tight Atlantic Division, every point counts as the season nears a close and now the team has seen its two main goalies and a solid defenseman injured. 

READ MORE: Sports Merchandise Opportunities Growing Beyond Jerseys, Logo Tees

Unlike the “Bunch of Jerks” retail launch last year, which was all in fun and helped spur a playoff run, this has a potentially negative effect on the team’s season-ending stretch. 

“We’re trying to talk about this crazy, unbelievable story and marketing play, but this is a different feeling than ‘Bunch of Jerks,’” Forman said. “It’s riding a high of the night and the low of what it could mean and finding the right balance.

“Unless the team goes out and wins 22 games straight, I don’t envision this being the overall rallying cry that it was last year – definitely a shorter shelf life.”

Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

What to Read

Oct 5, 2023; Landover, Maryland, USA; Washington Commanders owner Josh Harris with fans before the game against the Chicago Bears at FedExField.

Parts of the Commanders’ Past Finding Their Way Into Harris Era

The team is developing plans to honor former logo designer next season.
Apr 25, 2024; Detroit, MI, USA; NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell addresses the crowd during the 2024 NFL Draft at Campus Martius Park and Hart Plaza.

NFL Will Dip Its Toes in Private Equity by Year’s End

The league is likely to cap PE involvement in teams at 10%.

‘Where’s truTV?’ March Madness Channel Is Now TNT Sports’ New Star

Warner Bros. Discovery will make its sports emphasis on truTV ‘even more pronounced and consistent.’
podcast thumbnail mobile
Front Office Sports Today

College Sports’ Newest Insiders


Featured Today

NFLPA Report Cards Have Become the ‘Talk of the Locker Room’ Across..

NFLPA report cards have become the ‘talk of the locker room.’
July 7, 2024

The New College Sports Insiders Are Graphic Designers

Joe Tipton and Hayes Fawcett have become premier news-breakers on social media.
Oct 27, 2023; Sacramento, California, USA; A general of the Sacramento Kings logo on the court before the game against the Golden State Warriors at Golden 1 Center.
July 6, 2024

How Sports Went From Private Equity Punchline to Coveted Asset Class

Once an industry punchline, sports are now a coveted asset class.
July 2, 2024

Willie Mays’s Humility Was Key to His Genius

Mays took heat from all sides, and handled it his own way.

Everything To Know About the Jaylen Brown–Nike-Olympic Beef

It starts, as it often does, with a carefully parsed emoji.
June 26, 2024

Hot Dog PR Mavens Claim Joey Chestnut Beef Is All Real

The Shea brothers insist the Chestnut drama is genuine.
July 9, 2024

Arch Manning Will Be in EA’s ‘College Football 25’ After All

The NCAA’s most famous backup had previously opted out.

TopSpin 2K25 Brings the Legends of Tennis to Your Living Room

2K sports is reviving a classic with TopSpin 2K25.
June 13, 2024

Everything You Need to Know About the Schism Rocking Competitive Eating

The business story about hot dogs that you never knew you needed.
June 12, 2024

Fanatics Dives Into Ultra-Niche With G League Trading Cards

The company will take over the NBA license in 2025.
May 21, 2024

Lawsuit: Florida Football Coaches Made False NIL Promises

The quarterback says UF backed out of a $13.85 million NIL agreement.
May 8, 2024

Candace Parker Joins Shaq, Iverson in Court-to-Sneaker Boardroom Pipeline

Parker was named president of Adidas women’s basketball Wednesday.