Following the team’s victory over the Vancouver Canucks in the first game of the Western Conference Quarterfinal on Wednesday night, the Kings official Twitter account (@LAKings) tweeted an amusing, trolly joke. The joke – seen above in a screen shot – comically referenced the well worn "the Canucks aren’t Canada’s team" narrative, and did so in a way that wasn’t offensive, classless, cheap or inappropriate.
This wasn’t a comment about Kesler’s diving, it wasn’t a tweet editorializing about Bitz’s injurious hit on Kyle Clifford, and it wasn’t a comment about what happened in last years Stanley Cup Finals. This was a harmless joke about the – frankly indisputable – fact that the LA Kings have picked up some news fans this week who will root for the team at least through this series.
Of course Canucks fans, fresh off of watching their team lose a postseason game and feeling particularly sensitive, promptly reacted to the tweet as if it was something offensive and juvenile. It’s playoff time, baby!
Read past the jump!
The reaction of Canucks fans was nonsense, there’s nothing unprofessional about this tweet, quite the opposite. While the joke may not have been subtle, I think the choice of the Kings’ official account to tweet something thumbing their nose at the Canucks, and playing up their "lovable underdog" status, makes good sense from a communications standpoint
Part of why, I think, the tweet was jarring to so many Canucks fans, is that the Canucks official Twitter account (@VanCanucks) would never say something like that. There’s several reasons for this, and while I’m not familiar with the particular strategies or goals either club’s marketing team employs, I do work in the social media field and common sense can be pretty instructive here.
For the Canucks, and their official twitter account – the team is far and away the most prestigious professional sports brand in town. Whitecaps FC (MLS), the BC Lions (CFL) and the single A Vancouver Canadians all enjoy solid local support – but in Vancouver, hockey reigns supreme. The Canucks are an unparalleled sports marketing force and as such, one should expect that their Twitter strategy would be lower-risk than one that the Kings official account might employ.
Secondly, the two accounts are almost certainly targeted at different demographics. For @VanCanucks, folks like me (cynical mid-20s dudes, who spend a fair chunk of their disposable income on live sporting events) aren’t the target audience – we’re already in the bag. Instead @VanCanucks is about engaging more widely with casual fans, and putting a personal touch on team marketing. They do it very well, certainly as well as any other NHL club.
For the @LAKings account, however, getting noticed is essential. The Kings are the third most prestigious tenant in their own building! They share the Staples Centre with Kobe and Lob City, and overall they’re maybe the 6th biggest ticket in the LA sports market (behind the two NBA clubs, the Dodgers and USC college football and basketball). For the Kings, it’s not easy to convince 25 year old sports fans to spend their hard earned dollars watching Darryl Sutter’s brand of hockey, when that money could be spent paying to see Chris Paul throw slick alley oop passes to Blake Griffin.
For the King, the postseason is a tremendous opportunity, and they’re right to try to stir the pot, and generate excitement in this fashion. Think about it, what better way to promote an underdog eighth seed facing a well known, and widely loathed juggernaut than with a couple of cheeky jabs? Not only is the tweet a totally harmless way of conveying a sense of defiance, but it’s also like a dog-whistle to the Albertan hockey fans who are rooting against the Canucks (and thus for the LA Kings over the next couple of weeks), "hey guys, welcome aboard."
If you’re working in Social Media, what’s "professional" is doing what effectively promotes the brand you’re representing. The LA Kings Twitter account got more play out of riling up overly sensitive Canucks fans tonight, than it has probably ever generated at any point in its existence. They’ve made "news", they’ve driven conversation, and they’ve taken on a manageable level of negative attention to do so. It’s ballsy, but effective, and I applaud them for going beyond the pablum most official team accounts more regularly serve up.
The best part? The account is happily, and politely mocking those overreacting to their trolly tweet: