KHL Medveščak is the most popular sport brand in Croatia, confirmed the SPORTO Brands 2014. Among well known brands as GNK Dinamo, HNK Hajduk, NK Rijeka and VK Jug CO, Medveščak rose above all of them. Its hard-working team continues to work harder and harder every day. We are very happy that the Medveščak team shared  their story of success with us. Even though this post is quite long, we believe it could be very helpful as  it shows a lot about the best ice-hockey club in our region.

First of all we must thank Ranko Vučinić who answered all our questions quickly and with many details.

How many people does the Medveščak marketing and PR team have? What are the specific roles in your team?

”There are six people currently working in Medveščaks “communication team”. That is one of the largest teams in our club. Of course that is justified by the scope of the tasks given to the team! 

The communications team covers: all kinds of communication with the public and media, production of media content (video, text, photo), communication via all digital platforms, marketing and sponsorship communication, promotional campaigns, organization of events and content in prize games, coordination of all promotion and marketing activities, communication with the fans and local community as well as business and protocol obligations.

Ranko Vučinić, director of public relations and media / communications team leader, who is also the Head of President’s office; Ante Mihić, senior PR consultant and spokesperson for the club; Andro Petani, PR consultant, coordinator of communication activities with the League and the Russian media; Mislav Madirazza, head of marketing and communications and sponsorship activities; Ana Čalić, head of digital communications; Ivana Kolarić, editor-in-chief of www.medvescak.com

Our team, at times, is joined by a number of associates, particularly representatives of the PR agency Priredba studio. All team members work 24/7 and work together on the implementation of our plans and projects.”

You started this season with the campaign #TogetherWeAre. Can you tell us the story of how it was created, when it was launched and what  you achieved with it?

”We analyzed our communication with the fans. We also included  analysis of content created by fans and the way fans interact with one another. All that showed us that there are strong elements of fans’ attachment to the club and everything that goes along with the club – events, guided tours, activities for fans, etc.

We realized that the communication is sometimes  focused on particular events or individuals. Because of that, they were placed above the club. Also, the communicated values were probably focused in the wrong direction. During the creation of plans for the new season our digital communication department offered a proposal tagline TOGETHER WE ARE. We based the whole communication campaign on that tagline.

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#TogetherWeAre appeared for the first time in the season announcement campaign. We built the complete integrated campaign around it. The first phase included digital communication and activation of players and friends of the club through the so-called “Digital cloud”. In it you could enter the term that best described the relationship of the club and the fans/public. We received more than 30,000 proposals in just a couple of days! After the virtual campaign we started the outdoor campaign by using billboards and the media campaign via newspaper ads. The campaign was divided into two phases: the so-called teaser campaign during which we had not discovered who we were. We were flattered that many people thought our campaign was Nike’s campaign, because Nike is well known for its highly creative and successful campaigns. The second phase started with new billboards revealing it was about ice-hockey.

The uniqueness of the first campaign was in the blank space next to the tagline #TogetherWeAre. Our plan was to add words entered by the supporters in our “Digital cloud”. However, after only 24 hours, fans started writing their ideas on the billboards with spray paint. In just three days, all the billboards were filled with terms, and with all of them being highly positive; once again, our fans showed their amazing connection with Medveščak.”

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You are currently the No1 ice-hockey club on social networks in Europe. How did you do it? Tell us your secret…

Hard work! We have only one person who is constantly working on social networks. The other person involved is creating content for our website along with several associates. We managed to make a revolution in the field of sports on social networks (without ‘buying likes’). We managed to reach first place in digital delivery platforms with such a small team. All that means a lot and shows that we are doing a good job. Of course, we are not only happy  because of the number of fans, followers, etc but we are glad about the statistics that show extremely large activity  of our fans and followers. It is necessary to create and offer content on a daily basis (no matter what time of day or night, and regardless of holidays or days off) that is useful and interesting.

We are particularly pleased by the fact that our followers, our community on the club’s social media profiles have a high level of communication culture and follow the true principles of digital fair play.

It is interesting that you communicate with your Facebook fans as a ‘bear’. Can you tell us about reactions to such communication?

”Medveščak the bear is the official mascot of the club and as such it is he who is communicating with our fans. People at the club have their names and their faces, their personality, which is known to our fans. It is the same with the bear. Our wish is to meet as many of our fans as possible each day and to know their habits, desires and what they prefer. Of course, it is not easy,  but we try. Medveščak the bear is responsible for communication on social media, and our mascot revived in the digital world  -he has a name, look, he communicates, he lives; just like he does in the rink!

We must also mention one interesting marketing activity, you have played in and sold ‘pink jerseys’, can you tell us something about it? Results of the action? 

”At the initiative of our partner Podravka with the desire to continue our long term campaign for the care of our own health and the fight against breast cancer, we wanted to do something more than we did before. It all started a few years ago when our representatives in the Association ALL FOR HER complained that football players did  not want to support their campaign “pink October” and put pink on their boots, as is the custom all over the world.

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We had a desire to help, but also to show how one should always be ready to help, and we put the pink laces on the skates of our players. In the next season, in accordance with the rules of the league, the players wore the symbolic pink ribbons on their shoulders instead of our partners advertisements . This season, thanks to the understanding and the support of Podravka, we reached the final stage – we dressed the players in pink. Even though it was  for a good cause, it was also a big risk!! The jersey is sacred, the  color and coat of arms of your club are sacred , if the  fans do not accept your idea and do not understand the point of it, it could go in the wrong direction.

Fortunately, our fans understood and provided full support  to the club so the changes of the color of the jersey from the traditionally recognizable blue to pink caused enthusiasm and support among the fans. The match was played intentionally on the 2nd of November and not in October when the campaign usually takes place because we wanted to go one step further and send a clear message that the ‘care for the health and support to all those suffering from serious diseases does not only last from the beginning to the end of  October but should last 365 days a year!’.

After the game we put the jerseys on an online auction with the desire to get our fans to bid for them. Honestly, we did not expect much but by collecting  almost 90.000 HRK in the first 4-5 hours, proved that our supporters are willing to help and support the club at any time! And here we come back to the #TogetherWEAre campaing and  the start of the season because we are all together and we must work together! We are extremely proud of this action, particularly because we have collected enough  funds to  start Podravka’s culinary workshops for self Suffering women, with the participation of our players!”

Congratulations on the trophy  ‘Leading SPORTO brand in Croatia’, which you have won for the second year in a row. You were nominated alongside Hajduk, Dinamo Zagreb, Jug … but again you managed to win while competing with  popular football clubs? What do you have to say on that? What can football teams  learn from you?

”We learned a lot from others, from various sports clubs ,but from other areas too. You know how Medveščak was created ?! Damir Gojanović, club president, a former hockey player and hockey national team player, decided to try to return his sport and appear on the sports map of Zagreb and on the map of Croatia, at a time when this sport almost disappeared. He gathered a team of people, professionals from various fields with successful careers, most of them were not working and had never worked in hockey.

I remember when he gathered us all together and said: ‘‘Welcome everyone! We are here for one common goal – to make Medveščak a club that the whole city and country will be proud of, the fans, and all those who are with the club and you who will work on this project will work together. And that’s why I reckon you all the very best n what you do and i would like you to apply what you have learned in your career here, in sports…” .Only six months after that meeting, hockey was already the number one sport. Many had doubts, gave hockey a few months, possibly a year of life, talking about the collapse of the club that is not financed by the city or the state because we think it is more important to invest in schools, kindergartens and hospitals. Those who believed in this project are still with us and picking the fruit of their trust in us.  

Let’s be honest, we did not invent anything that has not been seen or does not exist in business or sports. We monitor how others are doing on a daily basis, we are inspired by their work, we design and adapt our goals and needs. Football is still number one and it always will be, not only in Croatia but in the world. We can only learn a lot of useful things from football  and apply them in our work. And we do it, both from football and many other sports.”

You have successfully connected sports and business, how?

”We see sports as a business, as a project in which without  investment and without risk there is no success. Of course, it is a sport, but also an investment and a risk because you cannot predict the winner. And we apply the most important thing in sport, which should be important in life, and that is fair play!

A few days ago we hosted a Finnish club, Jokerit, in Zagreb. For the first time in  history, a Finnish hockey club came to Croatia. Although interesting information to us it was not enough. We remembered that Finland’s biggest star was Santa Claus! We told our colleagues in Finland that would like to meet  Santa Claus and we took him and their players to visit some children’s homes and hospitals just before Christmas. 

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Finns asked us: ‘Do you have Santa Claus in Croatia?’, We answered: ‘We’ll find him!’, and they said: ‘Santa Claus is Finnish and he will come from Finland.’ And Santa Claus, the real Santa Claus arrived on a plane. On the plane with him and the team there were around 30 Finnish entrepreneurs and businessmen, partners and friends of the club. An additional motive fordo something more. At the initiative of the Embassy of Finland and with the support of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce we organized a business forum of Finnish and Croatian entrepreneurs called  HOCKEY CONNECTING BUSINESS (version of the famous Nokia Connecting People). After the business presentations and meetings they went to the match together.  

We plan to take Croatian businessmen to Finland in January, to our away games, and allow them to present themselves to Finnish market. Why !? Medveščak  showed that business and sport are and have to be connected. My opinion is that a business must use all the possibilities sport has to offer and that there is no better platform for development than sports. For us at the club, it is extremely important that projects help our partners and the Croatian economy and  ensure new or meet their existing sponsors expectations, and I hope that the Croatian entrepreneurs will  identify and exploit the potential that our club offers.

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Furthermore, sports must be in the service of their country and their city. It is priceless to organize a hockey spectacle like the one we organized in the Arena in Pula, on the Adriatic coast, with media reporting on the spectacle from all around the world. I have read these days that there will be a football match held in the Roman colloseum- we see  the organizators of a football match found inspiration in hockey! Hahahaha…”

Beach & Nite

Social-responsibility is very present in your actions?

”Sports must be a trigger of positive change in society and sports has that power. Sports sends a message of friendship, fellowship, fair play, respect, equality … We at Medveščak have cherished these values from the beginning, and we have exceptional support from our fans, but we want to convey to others. We are extremely proud of all our projects. We are not afraid to point out a problem and try to send out a message to fix it.  We have proudly been wearing the title of UNICEF’s sports partner since 2010 and we are the only hockey club in the world and one of few clubs in general who have this honor since 2010. Besides pride, it is an obligation to act as a possitive example with joy and responsibility.”

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