The Arizona Coyotes have a large female fan base, something that they are recognizing January 21st when they play the Tampa Bay Lightning. That’s when Ladies Night is happening and if you are one of the first 7,500 ladies in attendance you will get a pair of Coyotes themed texting gloves, a free wine tasting and a free 325 ml bottle of wine!
This... is not how Ladies Night should be advertised. This is not good. pic.twitter.com/ePhrEXKtc7— Sarah Hall (@sarahhowling) January 16, 2017
I think Katie Nolan does a great job of highlighting many of the pitfalls in Ladies Night. Check out what she has to say here:
While the theme Ladies Night is... complex, let’s talk about the giveaway.
First, giving away any sort of gloves is a bit odd for Arizona, as the average temperature in January is in the mid 50’s to high 60’s. So while you can wear them at the arena, glove season in Phoenix is not exactly long.
The wine tasting also is newly added. I understand that the Coyotes are trying to get new women into the sport, but this seemingly alienates the women who support the team passionately and don’t need any other incentive to come to Gila River Arena beyond watching the action. It also makes you wonder what kind of hockey related content is going to be presented as part of the evening. Considering the Coyotes have a large female fan base, it feels a bit… odd.
Far more important than the content of the promotion is how the target audience feels about it. So, what does Ladies Night mean to many of the women who consider themselves Coyotes fans?
All in Favor?
Some women love it. Like Caitlyn, a Coyotes fan said in a tweet, “Love it! Considering how the NHL is opening up more and more to women’s roles, I think it’s great! Sends a message to others.”
Some women are cautiously optimistic. Erin M said via twitter. “Two Cents: it would vary HEAVILY on the team/town doing it. Calgary and Toronto would be two different experiences.”
Cole added. “It’s okay if it’s geared towards women, but it always seems to be a hockey 101 night.”
Melissa wants it to be inclusive. “The only way I’d be good with it is if it was essentially a call for feedback – an effort to hear women’s voices.”
Francis had an interesting look. “IMO it’s good to celebrate/acknowledge/encourage female fans, it’s just the theme tends to default to exclusively pink/girly. And my objection there is the ‘exclusively’ part.”
So clearly there are more than a few women out there who are generally supportive of the idea of Ladies Night.
Most women I have gotten feedback from, well; aren’t pleased with the idea. Amelia put it bluntly. “Ladies nights are terrible because they are without fail condescending to women.”
Theodora added. “In theory, a nice gesture, particularly in newer markets. In practice, cringeworthy and patronizing.”
Twitter user Jmtomato agrees with Theodora. “Patronizing and pink with stupid 101 class. Definitely marketed with heels or wine.”
Ally reached out to me via direct message. “A team doing ladies night is horribly patronizing with a horrible focus on hot pink + zebra everything, wine, and acting as if women couldn’t possibly enjoy or understand the sport on their own.”
Erin K had this to add. “I have mixed feelings about "ladies night" I like the cheaper tickets and sometimes the group atmosphere will encourage women who don't usually go to hockey games to go with friends. But it's still derogatory. I work in a small optical office with a new employee who knows nothing about optical but knows every way to make sure women know that men are superior to women. It's still so much a part of our society, and however one feels about our president elect, it will continue to be a male-dominated society in the US for at least the next 4 years.”
Lastly, Flyers credentialed photographer and hockey fan Kate Frese had this to say about the concept of the promotion. “Some women like Ladies Night at bars because they like to feel special (or get drunk for free or close to it). I personally don't need or want to feel special. I don't want to be pointed out as different. I just want to be a hockey fan, not a female hockey fan.”
So for many women, the problem is not just the message, but the way the message is being delivered.
I think the most disappointing part is how the night has been advertised, or lack thereof. The Coyotes only started to actively advertise the night on Fox Sports Arizona in recent weeks. Nothing was stated until after the New Year, which three weeks to talk about a targeted market promotion, seems a bit short notice.
A Better Option?
Last season, the Tampa Bay Lightning had their own version of Ladies Night. But it was sold as Ladies Lightning University, an evening of on-ice training, off-ice instructional lessons, a locker room tour, Q&A with the owner of the team, head coach John Cooper and his wife, and a photo opportunity with a player. It included tickets to a game, two raffle tickets for a chance for Lightning Merchandise and a special gift theme for Ladies Lightning University.
Have women who are passionate about hockey, be it players or season ticket holders, talk about why the love hockey and/or Coyotes. Have them explain terms that are hard to understand if the crowd is new to hockey, because they know as much (if not more) then some of the guys do.
It’s not difficult, or even something the Coyotes haven’t done before. The Coyotes sponsored a Girls Hockey Appreciation Night last season to promote women’s hockey development. Mesa native and Olympian Lyndsey Fry has been celebrated by the Coyotes in the past. Dawn Braid broke ground as the NHL’s first female coach. This is the sort of engagement that recognizes women as equals in hockey fandom, which they are.
Set something up like the Lightning had last season. Let women have a night where they can ask questions, see how the team is run be it via Q&A or a video session. Talk about both the basics of hockey and the fine points of shot selection or defensive positioning for the many women who have played the game. And above all, let the women drive the narrative.
Hockey should be accessible to everyone, but there are times when you wonder if women will ever be fully accepted when it comes to anything with the NHL. Women are a large part of the market of sports, and it’s time that the league recognized this.
Wine tastings and texting gloves are nice, but the best way the NHL can market its product to female fans is the product itself. Women love hockey. The Arizona Coyotes should take advantage of that.