Chicago Blackhawks: Master Marketers

Topics: Chicago Blackhawks, National Hockey League, Chicago Pages: 17 (6464 words) Published: October 9, 2012
The Chicago Blackhawks franchise was founded in 1926 as the NHL first expanded into the United States. The Blackhawks enjoyed early success winning the Stanley Cup in 1932 and 1934. During the NHL original six era, a 25-year period between 1942 and the 1967 in which just six NHL franchises existed, the Blackhawks won a third Stanley Cup championship in 1961. Although the Hawks’ would enjoy many winning regular seasons and several years of playoff success afterwards, the Chicago Blackhawks 49-year Stanley Cup championship just ended in 2010. This Stanley Cup championship coincided with arguably the greatest sports marketing turnaround in the history of professional North American sports.

One of the few constant aspects of Chicago Blackhawks marketing has involved the nostalgia surrounding their logo. The logo was originally designed in 1926 by Irene Castle, the wife of the founder of the Chicago Blackhawks, Frederick McLaughlin. The original logo featured a disparaging looking Native American in a circle. The logo would then go several slight changes over the years until 1965 and has remained constant since. The Blackhawks logo is source of great pride for the franchise and its fans and it is arguably one of the coolest looking logos in professional sports. The marketing effects in terms of merchandise are enormous, as even non Blackhawk or hockey fans buy Chicago Blackhawks memorabilia simply because of the logo.

The Blackhawks logo commemorates Black Hawk, a Native American of the Sauk Nation and a prominent Indian of the early 1800’s, but the color scheme has no meaning behind it. Black Hawk lead a battle against what he thought was an illegal seizure of his people’s land in 1804 in Illinois and Wisconsin. Black Hawk then lead a war against American forces to consume land that Black Hawk felt rightfully belonged to the Sauk nation. Although Black Hawk’s revolt was ultimately unsuccessful, it gave Black Hawk a legendary status as heroic, fighting hero against overwhelming odds. Original Chicago Blackhakws owner, Frederick McLaughlin, thought honoring that mentality would be a perfect fit for his new professional hockey franchise. Overwhelming, Mr. McLaughlin has been proven correct in assertions.

However, in our increasingly sensitive era with matters regarding Native Americans, the logo has its fair share of controversy. As the NCAA has adopted a policy that in effect bans the use of Native American mascots without the specific permission of a Native American tribe, pressure has built upon the Chicago Blackhawks among some groups to drop the logo entirely. In fact sports reported Damien Cox, wrote, “At a time when sports leagues and schools around North America are either debating the dubious values of having native peoples used as mascots entirely, the NHL and the Chicago Blackhawks seem awfully casual about it, supremely confident that one will dare question the racial sensitivity of the large aboriginal likeness that serves as the logo of the hockey club.” But, since the positive marketing implications of the logo appear to far outweigh the controversy, the Chicago Blackhawks logo figures to stay for decades to come barring any legal action.

For the 2002-03 season, the Chicago Blackhawks introduced a team mascot for the first time, Tommy Hawk. Although this could be deemed inappropriate as well, Tommy Hawk is actually a giant bird wearing a Blackhawks jersey. Unlike the Blackhawks logo, Tommy Hawk has caused little controversy among the masses. Tommy Hawk looks like a friendly approaching bird and has much appeal to kid fans. At Blackhawks games, Tommy Hawk can be seen getting many pictures with big smiling kids. Tommy Hawk has helped make attending a Blackhawks game more exciting for children as many kids could get bored watching an average hockey game of about three hours. Tommy Hawk has been proven to be a good marketing tool by the Chicago Blackhawks. Of the many...
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