A Focus on the Fans

Chicago Wolves

by Ellen Farrar

Chicago Wolves ice hockey team is one of Chicago’s iconic sports teams. Founded in 1994, they’ve won three AHL conference championships, and brought untold hours of entertainment and inspiration to the people of Chicago.

Chicago Wolves Helmet and Puck

A Focus on the Fans

Chicago Wolves ice hockey team is one of Chicago’s iconic sports teams. Founded in 1994, they’ve won three AHL conference championships, and brought untold hours of entertainment and inspiration to the people of Chicago.

Hungry For More

Bringing The Wolf Pack Together

We began working with the Chicago Wolves back in 2015. They were looking to refresh their brand, and develop a campaign for their winter season.

But it couldn’t just be about what looked good, or felt right. The Wolves compete for market share in a sports-mad city. They’re up against world-famous teams with bigger marketing budgets and A-list stars. Their brand and marketing had to be savvy. It needed to be created with an understanding of their fans and what the Wolves game experience meant to them, so we could grow their loyalty.

Fan Research

We kicked-off a six-month program of research, including 18 qualitative focus groups with their core fan base, families, hockey enthusiasts, and other entertainment seekers. We also conducted quantitative research, including fan interviews at the Allstate Arena, and a substantial online survey. We reviewed competitors’ activity, digital statistics, and Wolves’ internal data. We conducted interviews with their internal team to see how they perceived themselves.

No stone left unturned, really.

All this research delivered in spades. We found out a lot about the Wolves’ core fan groups and their motivations, including specifics about who attends games on different days of the week, and the experiences each group seeks. This fuelled all our marketing activity, from brand positioning, to tactical media buys. Thanks to what we learned, we could talk to fans in the right place, at the right time, in the right way.

Chicago Wolves: Hungry for More

Our Wolves brand repositioning included a new website, digital marketing, outdoor advertising, print and digital media, print marketing collateral, event promotion, and social squad activation—just about everything you could imagine. We also handle media planning and buying for the Wolves in affiliation with US Interactive Media.

We’re able to point to some strong results from our partnership with the Wolves. However, just as valuable as the growth in ticket revenue, is the unifying effect the research and band repositioning exercise has had for the Wolves and their fans. “Hungry for More” has become a powerful rallying cry. The combination of a strong brand platform with targeted messaging tailored to their fans has seen exceptionally high season ticket renewals.

The Digital Touch

We’ve also been thrilled to lend the Wolves a hand with their digital marketing. They were looking for better results and strategic direction, and that’s what we’ve brought with online advertising, Google, and Facebook.

We hit the ground running (or ice skating?) with strong results the first year. And each season on from there, we’ve refined, improved, and changed our approach, learning from what has reached the audience, and what they’ve responded to. We’re agile, shifting our spend around the different channels based on their performance, and shifting our scheduling based on what converts into ticket sales. And we experiment with ad creative, A/B testing to see what grabs the fans. In that sense, we’ve never stopped that fan research we began at the start of our partnership.

The Wolves experience isn’t just about the hockey. A night out there has atmosphere and entertainment galore. Date nights, craft beer nights, Star Wars night, fireworks, music—you’re immersed in life, spirit, and color. That gives us a lot of different audiences to talk to, and a lot of different experiences to share. We make sure we’re there to support the Wolves with all the activations they create. We also help their team-behind-the-team learn more about the art and science of digital marketing, holding masterclasses with them each week.

Each season brings something new. Each game brings new excitement. It’s an honor to work with a team with such a strong history and fanbase, a team that means so much to so many Chicagoans. We’re excited to take the next steps with the Wolves as they approach their 25th anniversary!

digital conversion

190% increase

digital revenue

168% increase

season ticket renewal rate

100%+

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