The familiar Columbus Blue Jackets slogans “Carry the Flag” and “Join the Battle” are things of the past.
Say hello to a new era and “March With Us.”
The NHL club is unveiling its latest marketing campaign today with ads that incorporate not only the team but the city and the fans.
“The primary focus is about the team, but not just about the team. We’ve integrated it with the city,” said J.D. Kershaw, the Blue Jackets’ vice president of marketing.
Most ad campaigns run for two or three years, Kershaw said, and the most recent — “Join the Battle” — was at the high end, at three years.
“While I liked ‘Join the Battle,’ it felt like the right time to come up with a new theme,” Kershaw said. “About eight months ago, we started to wonder where we would go from there. Most of us felt that the team is turning the corner in a positive direction, and we felt the city is on a positive trajectory as well.
“There are a lot of great things happening in Columbus, and the team’s success will only enhance the city’s success.”
While the ad campaign focuses on the hockey team, it inevitably also must focus on the community, Kershaw said.
“I’ve been fortunate to live in six different countries,” he said. “Columbus is a very special and unique place. I don’t know if this would work in every market.”
That point became clear to Kershaw during the NHL All-Star Game Weekend in January.
The weekend was designed not only as a sporting event but as something for the entire community to enjoy, “even if you weren’t a hockey fan,” Kershaw said.
So, when the Ohio State Buckeyes’ national championship celebration was scheduled to take place on the same weekend, some people wondered if it might somehow detract from the hockey event.
“Was I upset? No,” Kershaw said. “If you want Columbus to be the city we all want it to be, you not only expect this but encourage it. I want our guys to be supportive of the Buckeyes, to be in the front row of Crew games, to be fans of the Clippers. This is a very collaborative community, people are very supportive of each other.”
To emphasize that point, the “March With Us” campaign’s video ads superimpose footage from Blue Jackets games onto familiar Columbus landmarks, and vice versa. A familiar central Ohio voice — former Buckeyes quarterback-turned-sportscaster Kirk Herbstreit — narrates the video.
“We’re hoping that after three or four times seeing the spot, people will say, ‘Hey, that’s Kirk Herbstreit,’ ” Kershaw said.
To further emphasize the tie between team and town, the “March With Us” logo has typography that clearly echoes the “Columbus” lettering used by Experience Columbus, with a small star over the U.
“Even if you don’t recognize it (the resemblance to the visitors bureau logo), it still works,” Kershaw said.
Just to make sure that everything was done properly, the Blue Jackets contacted Experience Columbus for permission to use the design.
Permission was granted with enthusiasm, said Amy Tillinghast, vice president of marketing at Experience Columbus.
“We are very excited that the Columbus Blue Jackets incorporated (the Columbus logo) into their new campaign,” Tillinghast said.
“Research has consistently shown that our city is lagging other large U.S. cities in image awareness,” she said. “The ‘Columbus’ branding was developed in 2010 by a group of collaborative community partners with the intention of starting to build destination distinction.
“It has since been adopted by 30-plus organizations and events across the city. We continue to encourage adoption of the ‘Columbus’ logo mark and the accompanying US treatment (with the star over the U).”
The tie-in with the Experience Columbus campaign is “really smart,” said Deborah Mitchell, a professor of marketing at Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business.
“It’s something that’s already there — and it’s positive,” Mitchell said. “From a psychology standpoint, they’re going to get even more bang for the buck because there is already an awareness of that visual. The Experience Columbus campaign has been very successful. This is going to hook right into that.
“It’s also going to help the city’s brand even while it helps the Blue Jackets. It’s a win-win — it helps everyone’s marketing dollars go further.”
While it has similarities to the Experience Columbus lettering, the “March With Us” logo has its own slant, literally.
“The font leans forward, as our logo does, and the color scheme is ours, too,” Kershaw said.
The campaign is comprehensive, involving print, posters and video, but it was created by the team’s in-house designers and management. Thus, beyond the work on the video ads by Columbus-based Post House production company, there was no additional expense beyond the team’s normal advertising budget.
“It was a real collaborative effort,” Kershaw said. “There was a lot of input, internally and externally, because a lot of people are going to use it.”
Article By Tim Feran The Columbus Dispatch • Saturday August 15, 2015 8:18 AM