Saturday, 27 October 2012

Why The Islanders Are Destined To Fail

If the NHL ever decides to play games again, you're probably aware that the New York Islanders will be moving to Brooklyn for the 2015-16 season after their lease expires at the Nassau County Memorial Coliseum. At first glance, this seems like an extremely smart move in that the Islanders are moving into a brand-new arena in the Barclay's Center, they move into an extremely populous area inside New York City, and they are on the hub of some major subway routes from outlying areas. But I got to thinking this week that this move might actually harm the Islanders in their lack of foresight into the 25-year deal they inked with the Barclay's Center. But if we're talking about the Islanders, this should come as no surprise, right?

I had originally explored the idea of the Islanders moving into the Barclay's Center back on April 20, 2012 when they announced an exhibition game at the new facility. I ultimately concluded that moving the Islanders to Brooklyn may actually benefit the team due to them having a chance to attract new fans, particularly in the age 18-44 demographic, and better situating themselves for more people to attend games.

It occurred to me over the weekend, however, that the Islanders may actually not do better. I stressed that the Islanders need to market themselves well in order to attract a growing ethnic population and to try and sway some Rangers fans to see their games. So I decided to do a little investigation as to who would be leading this charge.

The New York Islanders' business directory lists Mr. Thomas Rakoczy as their Director of Marketing, and Miss Brittany Cole as the Marketing Coordinator.

According to his LinkedIn page, Mr. Rakoczy has been with the Islanders in a "creative" capacity since 2004 - Creative Services Manager from March 2004-June 2007, Creative Director from June 2007-January 2010, and in his current role of Director of Marketing since January 2010.

Miss Brittany Cole started as the Public Relations Intern at the New York Islanders from June 2011-October 2011, became part of the Community Relations/Game Night and Events Staff in October 2011 until June 2012 where she most notably wrote blogs for the Islanders site (making use of that Journalism degree), was promoted to Human Resources Coordinator in October 2011 until June 2012, and then jumped over to Marketing Coordinator for the last five months.

The problem I see is that there is a guy in "creative services" - aka marketing - who has been with the Islanders since 2004, and a journalism-student-turned-HR-employee-turned-marketing-coordinator in her current marketing role for five months. Those last five months have seen no Islanders hockey played and a lockout killing the game, meaning her role with the team has been essentially zero as a marketer. Thus, I am basing my entire following dissertation on Mr. Rakoczy's work. Unfortunately, he will be the key in unraveling this tangled web of deceit and fraud in which the Islanders are trapped.

The Islanders held a fan appreciation event called FanFest in 2011. They came up with a pretty solid design for the event in so much that it wasn't anything horrible. Fans could probably rally behind that event and at least be proud that the Islanders came up with something on their own, right? Well, they didn't.

You see, Mr. Rakoczy's approved design came not from the two graphic designers the Islanders have on staff and are paying a salary. No, it was approved from submitted designs on - a site where companies advertise for needed designs, and designers submit works by a deadline for the company to use. The FanFest design was submitted by a designer under the name "SheWolf" who actually designed a number of really good, innovative designs for the Islanders.

So let's review, shall we? The Islanders have two graphic designers on staff. They would like to produce a logo for their fan appreciation event. Instead of making one or both of the graphic designers come up with a logo, the Islanders outsource their work to an independent website where an independent designer comes up with the logo used at the event. Does that make any sense?

Well, Tom Rakoczy thinks it does.
"Holding our 2011 FanFest logo contest on AdTournament was a wonderful experience and it surpassed all of our expectations. It was a very easy process as we were able to communicate very smoothly with the designers.

"AdTournament makes it very simple to express your messaging. When initially posting the contest, we described a logo we’d like to emulate. We provided the name of the event and gave detailed instructions of what we wanted to be incorporated in the design.

"Most designers understood just what we were looking for from the beginning. For those that didn’t get our idea, with an effortless couple of clicks we let them know a design they created was not what we were looking for. Then, they headed back to the drawing board and came back with additional ideas. The end result was a terrific logo that we’re using in all our marketing collateral for our 2011 FanFest, a major event on our summer calendar.

"My best recommendation for contest holders is just be as detailed as possible. There are great designers on AdTournament who will help you immensely, all you need to do is communicate the details to them."
If that isn't making your head spin, here's something that will: AdTournament is a site setup by former Islanders president Chris Dey and his wife Kimberly Dey! The news of the "partnership" was posted on the Islanders site on December 16, 2011 - months after the FanFest 2011 logo was selected! Patronage has its benefits, I suppose.

What will really bring the heat down on this marketing coup is that Kimberly Dey, Chris Dey's wife, is Charles Wang's daughter. Much like Garth Snow was a loyal backup goaltender for the Islanders, Wang's own daughter reaps the benefits of being associated with Charles Wang even when she isn't on the payroll. Charles Wang is paying his daughter's outside company to do the graphic design work for his franchise when he already has two graphic designers on salary. Anyone else see a problem with this?

Speaking of Garth Snow, it seems that this trend of putting inexperienced people into positions of power is common under Mr. Wang.
"Mr. Wang created a 'culture of fear' at Computer Associates — now called CA — and deliberately put inexperienced executives in senior positions so that he would have more control, according to the report. He discouraged executives from meeting with each other and arbitrarily fired managers or employees who disagreed with him.

"'Fraud pervaded the entire CA organization at every level, and was embedded in CA's culture, as instilled by Mr. Wang, almost from the company's inception,' the report said."
If there's one thing that the NHL seems to love more than money, it's owners who have shady backgrounds. Charles Wang is raked over the coals by The New York Times' Alex Berenson in 2001 for his apparent fraudulent ways in acquiring his fortune, and follows the story up with another eye-opening piece in 2007 about how Mr. Wang conducted serious accounting fraud while running Computer Associates (from where the above quote is taken). The practices employed at Computer Associates were so bad that the company is now used as an example in business schools as a case for unethical behavior.

I was hopeful that the Islanders would be able to make it in Brooklyn with a new fan base and a new facility. Ticket prices will undoubtedly be higher as the Barclay's Center only holds 14,500 people when filled to capacity for hockey, but it's not like the Islanders have had 14,500 people to a game since Pat LaFontaine played there. There's still a chance that they could turn around this moribund franchise, but the above information makes me think that there will just be more shady deals made by Charles Wang and his cronies. Marketing, it seems, will still be run by Charles Wang and his daughter rather than Mr. Rekoczy and his team.

In conclusion, Mr. Wang went from practicing finances which saw the hockey-stick effect (jump to page 114) to screwing with an entire hockey team. Honestly, I can't see the Islanders being any more successful in Brooklyn than they were on Long Island with the owner they have now because he's a fraud like his businesses. It doesn't matter how the team is marketed in Brooklyn if the same people who drove the team into the ground are still doing the marketing for it.

All I know is that the move to Brooklyn is one step closer for the Islanders to be in Quebec City if we're looking at a compass. And hopefully Charles Wang won't be a part of that move or any other team in the NHL.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!


TedNes said...

Typical of the "working world" these day though Teebz. SOmeone with a degree is looked at as much more qualified than someone that say, has lived and breathed hockey all their lives.

I can guarantee you that if you asked any lifelong hockey fan what the Isles should do to build their image and get more attendance, you would get hundreds of better suggestions from those people on the street than any of the suits upstairs with the fancy letters after their names on the letterhead.

But what do we know? We've only spent our heard-earned dollars on tickets and swag and TV packages to support a sport and likely a team we love. Ya, someone with an MBa in Marketing that likely never watched hockey before they were hired certainly knows much more about hockey than any of us....

Stats Professor said...

The Islanders have not done anything since the lucky David Volek goal and rightfully so. There's not many franchises who have made worse trades and signings in recent times.

That goal just ruined hockey piece by piece allowing an average Montreal team to win the Stanley Cup.

Some teams are destined to fail and Islanders are one of them. Being stuck in the toughest division won't help matters either.