Expansion team launches always bring me back to my first experience in sports during the inaugural Minnesota Timberwolves season in 1989. As a fresh-faced rookie I had to learn the realities of the a new job, navigating the real world and learn the nuances of event production.
Luckily I was surrounded by a massive amount of sports marketing talent. The scrappy list of young up-and-comers who turned into the next generation sports leaders is long. Over a dozen people became VP-level executives or household names in sports including Cavaliers CEO Len Komoroski, Wolves VP of Fan Experience Jeff Munneke, TNT Play-by-Play Icon Kevin Harlan, AEG President Shawn Hunter, Executive Director Cincinnati Reds Community Fund Charley Frank, Jason LaFrenz VP Marketing Wolves, Joe Levy, Steve Matson, Brendan Tinnen, Ron Minegar, Chris Wright, Scott Coleman and legendary sports marketing giant Oak View Group CEO Tim Leiweke.
This group was smart, daring and informed. They pushed the boundaries because it was how they were built… and they were young and hungry.
But there was an intense focus on fan experience. Staff was taught to make decisions in the moment for fans. Taught what was right, then empowered to do it without running every decision up the flag pole. Leiweke referred to these as “moments of truth“. Setting your compass and then doing right by your customers/fans based on your principals. He shared a book with staff (especially young dumb staff like me) about these moments and their impact.
When I see and hear about the launch of the Kraken it has that same energy.
Talented people with a sharp vision and the urgency to do good, interesting and valuable things through sports. A fearlessness about change. A willingness to question the status quo. A group who has set their compass and now is changing sports because they want to live up to those moments.
At Climate Pledge area there are countless examples like their living wall, use of Amazon Walk Out technology for concessions and a rain capture system that uses their abundant rain water to make hockey ice.
And in game presentation there are bold decisions like this dual videoboard display.
Seattle's going with double jumbotrons? Not sure how I feel about that. pic.twitter.com/33GghQOPp1
— Gregory Balloch (@GregBalloch) October 21, 2021
Virtually every arena team in sports has a center-hung scoreboard. The Kraken took their blank canvas and asked “why?” Their solution is dual videoboards. Splitting the boards thus moving them closer to more fans while keeps the attention on the areas of the ice where the action is (the goals). I don’t know if it will work, but it is an innovation that sure seems logical, smart and daring….and right.
I can’t wait to see what the Kraken roll out opening night and beyond. VP of Entertainment Jonny Greco and his team will undoubtedly raise the bar and shine in the moment.
If there is a through line that connects the expansion energy of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Seattle Kraken, it should come as no surprise it is Oak View CEO Tim Leiweke. Leiweke has been central to the expansion franchise along with his brother Tod, building the staff and setting their compass to do good, interesting and valuable things.
30 years later it is still framed in the same way.
“We’re very pleased on what we have created for Seattle in this moment of truth,” said Oak View Group CEO Tim Leiweke. (SeattlePI)
- Kraken Drops in Seattle – Seattle unleashes the Kraken and takes on Happy Creative Warrior Jonny Greco all in one giant week.
- Recap: Storytelling with Jonny Greco – Jonny Greco led a hour discussion on Storytelling in game presentation. Lots of great insights, tips and examples from around the world of sports from this Gameops.com Plus Huddle Call.
- August 2019 Party in the Back Podcast
- Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull – Jonny Greco gifted this book to the original eight staffers at the Vegas Golden Knights, which helped to build their award winning culture of storytelling.
- August 2016 Podcast – The August Podcast with Jonny Greco and Cameron Hughes. We talk Cams..Kiss Cam, Dance Cam and more. Then these sunny adversaries go toe-to-toe in a battle of positivity.
- Golden Knights VP talks Pre-Game Productions – NPR caught with Jonny Greco the VP of entertainment for the Las Vegas Golden Knights. The Water Cooler is about creating moments that people talk about it, and EVERYONE is talking about the Golden Knights production. Those epic skits that start off Knights games that have the NHL buzzing.
- Photos: A look inside Seattle’s new Climate Pledge Arena ahead of Kraken home opener
- Moments of Truth by Jan Carlzon
Thanks to Jeff Munneke and Jerome Richardson for their help with this post.