In the past three seasons, the Syracuse Crunch have gone from having their attendance rank just barely inside the top 20 in the AHL to in the top 10. However, apparently that's not enough to keep owner Howard Dolgon from resorting to ugly gimmicks and degradation of women to pull the masses in and bring attention to the team. Offering a spin at coaching the Crunch to presidential hopeful Donald Trump (known for his maltreatment of women) wasn't the last of Dolgon's "great" ideas.
His latest marketing scheme has model Hope Rain displaying her body for the AHL team. The photoshoot ranges from topless and suggestive with ice skates to the so-called classic "jersey and nothing else but strappy heels and a smile" poses. (Seen here.)
"I think if you do something tastefully, whether it's the kiss cam or a billboard or an ad or anything you do, people should be happy with it. Whatever you do, you're not going to get 100 percent on,'' [Dolgon] said.
"It will be a classy product. Will there be naysayers? Listen, we could do a church night and there will be people against it because they'll say we're serving the religious group. We could do something with gay and lesbian night and they'll say, 'Well, that's wrong, because we don't support gay marriages.' People are entitled to their opinion. As long as we believe we do it in a classy way, which we always have, we're entitled to pick and choose how we're going to promote this organization.''
With the intent to run these pictures on billboards, I hate to break it to you, Mr. Dolgon, but the entire premise is offensive. It's not the model, it's not utilizing her as part of an ad campaign, it's not having an ad campaign at all. It's the fact that you are objectifying women.
Sex sells! Sure it does, but it should not be at the expense of making anyone feel devalued. Advertising with the belief that sex sells can be done in the tasteful, classy way that you say you desire. Take, for example, this video the Nashville Predators took last season with players teaching Sports Illustrated swimsuit models hockey basics.
Fun, wholesome, and eye-catching without ever making the viewer - or anyone involved in filming - uncomfortable.
With the Crunch's season motto "Believe in Blue", why do you not focus your advertisements on believing in the product you're putting on the ice? Show off the talent that you have in your marketing. You're doing your fans and your players a disservice with this extraneous misogyny.
Further, for the most part hockey already caters to a more masculine taste. If a team wants to increase their attendance numbers, they need to focus on those who aren't already planning to attend games - families and young women, to be exact. In 2013, women were between 36 and 42% of the audience for the Stanley Cup Final (source). As an AHL team, you should be striving to pull those women in to your arena. Not doing your best to make them feel uncomfortable with racy ads.
We are less than a year removed from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman proclaiming that "we generally get very positive reviews for all the efforts that we've made on being inclusive and diverse" (source) and that "taunting chants aren't intended to be sexist" (source). I'm here to inform you that it's not about intent. Actions speak louder than words, after all.
Hockey has a long history with marketing women as sex objects and it's far past the time both the NHL and AHL move beyond it. Women are more than that and we deserve better.