This past week the Blue Jackets rolled out the #DefendNWA social media campaign for the second year in a row. The lockout dampened the movement last season, as by the time the season started the team had to scramble to get ready for the shortened season and roll out the organizational changes. With a fresh season, the social media team now has more time to give the #DefendNWA campaign a fair shot and it is already being embraced by fans. However, can the Blue Jackets successfully “defend” their arena from fan invasions, and also enjoy the financial benefits from opposing fans? Can the organization rally up the fans without looking like they are banning opposing fans from showing up?
I believe the Blue Jackets so far have succeeded, as the #DefendNWA campaign builds support from within the fansbase, but does not prevent or discourage opposing teams fans from entering Nationwide Arena. Other small market teams have tried the “no opposing fans allowed” approach and for the most part it has been met with opposition. The Florida Panthers had a special seating section where opposing fans were not allowed. They then faced backlash from the media and opposing fans, as how could a financially struggling team like the Panthers turn away paying customers?
Opposing fans showing up and making noise is unavoidable. In addition, they are a valuable source of revenue. Sure, no one likes hearing a quarter of the arena cheering the other teams goal, but those cheering “enemy” fans bought tickets, purchased food and drinks, and are inadvertently helping the Blue Jackets revenue / attendance figures. Whether you like to admit it or not, opposing fans are a necessary evil.
Instead of taking the negative approach and blocking opposing fans, I prefer the Blue Jackets approach. Acknowledge the fact that opposing fans are unavoidable and instead rally your fanbase to show up and counteract “fan invasions”. Today’s Blue Jackets are a far cry from the team that allowed Penguins fans to ride the Zamboni during intermission, but they are also not going to the other extreme and trying to prevent opposing fans from showing up.
However, the Blue Jackets are by no means welcoming opposing fans with open arms. Single game tickets go on sale today, but they are only open to Ohio residents only. Everyone else has to wait until Tuesday September 10th to get their tickets. Some will argue this constitutes the Blue Jackets trying to keep opposing fans out of the arena. While I agree that this may be part of the reason for putting tickets on sale early, I feel the main reason is to reward Jackets fans living in Ohio. This is no different than a band putting concert tickets on sale early for their fan club members only. In addition, this does nothing to prevent fans of other teams living in Ohio from buying tickets.
It is difficult for a team to walk the fine line between rallying their own fanbase, while not alienating the opposing fans who will also provide a viable revenue source throughout the season. I believe the Blue Jackets have done a great job of doing both. The #DefendNWA campaign gets CBJ fans to show up to the arena, as well as gives OH residents a chance to get tickets first, but also does not oppose the idea of other teams fans of showing up to Nationwide Arena.