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Deadspin: NHL hires spin doctor to improve image, formulate PR campaign

October 15, 2012|By Helene Elliott
  • Frank Luntz, CEO and founder of Luntz Global, is a Republican Party strategist.
Frank Luntz, CEO and founder of Luntz Global, is a Republican Party strategist. (Rogelio V. Solis / Associated…)

Remember when NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman tried to plead the league’s case for cutting players’ salaries by saying operating expenses have gone up because of increases in the costs of trainers, massage therapists, coaches and jet fuel?

He seems to have forgotten one expense: the cost of the league having hired marketing firm Luntz Global to conduct a focus group study on fans’ perceptions of the league during the lockout and craft a spin strategy that will make the league look more favorable.

Deadspin has the scoop, and it’s fascinating and frightening at the same time.

According to the Deadspin piece, the NHL commissioned this study on an emergency basis, which would mean it showed far more urgency in that regard than it has in sustaining negotiations with the players’ association. Apparently the league is concerned that it has been losing the public relations battle and it’s eager to position itself as sympathetic and willing to make sacrifices and position the players as divided and led by uncompromising executives such as Donald Fehr.

The study’s finding that Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly is perceived in a far more positive light than Bettman is viewed explains why Daly has been the league’s spokesman for much of the process. And it says “shared sacrifice” is going to be the new catchphrase in future dealings with the media.

That’s pretty ham-handed for a league that has never known quite how to sell itself and its unique attributes, starting with its players. The NHL had not responded to a request for comment by the time this blog was posted; if that changes, we will post an update.

Luntz Global apparently intended to conduct another focus group Oct. 19. The survey that was initially on this page has since been removed.

All of this should make Tuesday’s scheduled negotiations in Toronto between Bettman, Daly, Donald Fehr and union counsel Steve Fehr very interesting. If the NHL really cared about fans -- and about the club and arena workers who are losing money every day the lockout continues — it would be focused on negotiations, not on focus groups.

The forecast: more propaganda and more games lost.

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