Published in Sports Business Journal
By Mark J. Burns
The NHL voted to award an expansion franchise to Seattle in December 2018. That year the Seattle Times launched a contest asking for reader submissions for what the name of the city's first NHL team should be. The newspaper received 1,000 unique names, according to CEO Tod Leiweke, who "looked at every doggone one of them," he laughed.
After months of delays due to timing around the pandemic as well as working through legal processes, in late July the organization was finally able to unveil — or, perhaps more accurately, unleash — its name and branding: the Kraken.
Leiweke and Heidi Dettmer, vice president of marketing, made the announcement in view of 300 people working on what is now Climate Pledge Arena, a $900-plus million privately financed project.
"It was a crazy circumstance in which to launch a name," Leiweke said. "To do it in the midst of a global pandemic, we made the best out of the circumstance. We launched in front of the men and women building the arena, which felt really special."
The expansion team, which will begin play in 2021-22, livestreamed six hours of coverage on the day of the announcement in order to support the launch. In the two days following the Kraken's brand unveiling, the club's database grew by 35%. What's more, over the subsequent week, there were 1.75 billion media impressions tied to the Kraken, 1,500 media placements and 20 million website visits, the team said. Since the Kraken opened its brick-and-mortar flagship store Aug. 21, the club has surpassed $1.3 million in merchandise sales.
The team can expect rabid fan support inside Climate Pledge Arena too, where it will be the city's first team to compete at hockey's highest level since the Seattle Metropolitans of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association, which won the Stanley Cup in 1917 but folded in 1924. In March 2018 — nine months before even being awarded the league's 32nd franchise — the team received 10,000 season ticket deposits in 12 minutes and 32,000 in 24 hours.
"Now you see fans wearing [the Kraken brand]. It's everything we had kind of hoped," Leiweke said. "It looks uniquely Seattle. It's cool. It's noble. It's got a little bit of a vibe and personality. More than anything, it's a symbol. The real brand of the team is the thousand bricks you put in place. That's a really important symbol of the brand you want to build, and we have a chance to build a great brand under these marks."