WITH A STAFF OF 15 SPECIALISTS IN every field from hotel management to festival logistics, NHL Enterprises' events and entertainment department is a gold mine of event expertise. Even with all of that horsepower, the group, led by 10-year National Hockey League veteran and group vice president Frank Supovitz, has to work full tilt to produce All-Star Week — the MVP of pro hockey's annual event roster.
REACH FOR THE STARS
Consisting of contests, a Stanley Cup parade, a celebrity game and a 300,000-square-foot interactive hockey exhibition among other festivities, NHL All-Star combines fan development, fan appreciation, charitable efforts and skills displays in a week-long celebration of hockey.
All-Star “takes up about 150 percent of our year,” Supovitz says. Beginning two years out, “when we start the score clock, we already have 2,500 rooms for peak night on hold, we already have the arena on hold,” he explains. Next, his department secures the venues, local vendors and on-site staff required for a multi-day extravaganza that culminates with the annual NHL All-Star game — a competition between Team World and Team North America, featuring NHL players voted on by hockey fans.
Early on, Supovitz's staff works with the host city to help assure both the effectiveness and compliance of public promotional displays — a plus for league and event sponsors alike, he says. For example, “We do all the banners,” he says, “but we ask the city, ‘Where is the best place to put them? What can they say? What do they need to look like? Can we put a sponsor on them, and, if so, what are the guidelines for that?’”
Firming up a promotional campaign with local media and securing 1,200 local volunteers helps pave the final road to All-Star, which finally glides into town between late January and early February each year.
HOLLYWOOD ON ICE
A Hollywood-themed post-game celebration proved a highlight of this year's All-Star week, held in Los Angeles in February. Traditionally a thank-you to players, All-Star alumni, sponsors, licensees, broadcast-rights holders and their guests, the post-game celebration is a party for what Supovitz calls “5,000 of our closest friends.”
“Because many of these people go to this event every year, we figured we'd change the tone of it a little,” he says of the 2002 party. “We said, ‘Here we are in the entertainment capital of the world. Ten minutes from the arena [Staples Center] is the Shrine Auditorium, where countless Oscar ceremonies have been done. Let's bring them there and do the party where the Oscar after-parties used to happen.”
Working with Los Angeles-based Merv Griffin Productions and caterer Someone's in the Kitchen, Supovitz's department created an atmosphere shimmering with 1940s Hollywood glamour. A red-carpet entry, uplit palm trees, animal-print accents and the smooth sounds of a live swing band combined to give guests the consummate movie-star experience.
“There's an awful lot you want to do to position your sport in front of influentials and fans,” says Supovitz. Besides All-Star, he cites the NHL Awards Gala to benefit the Canadian Diabetes Association, the NHL International Challenge and the annual Business Partner Summit as some of league's most important events.
Topping his department's priorities are the sponsorships that are vital to such events. While his group doesn't sell sponsorships, “we are involved in creating the programming that they ultimately buy,” he says. In some instances, he adds, his group will go the extra mile, as it did with the amateur tournament it produced for Anheuser-Busch as part of a promotional food-and-beverage event. While such add-ons are not part of the department's basic job, “we're happy to do it,” Supovitz says. “We add a little bit of extra hockey savvy, as well as some production knowledge to it, and everybody wins.”
The extra work is worth it, he maintains. “When you really believe in a product and you enjoy that product — in this case, NHL hockey,” he says, “it gives you reason to get up in the morning.”
NHL Enterprises can be reached at 212/789-2000.