By Jessi Dixon, Supervisor at PRLab
Around 2007 the Chicago Blackhawks of the National Hockey League (NHL) were going through a rebuild. They were one of the six original teams in the inaugural season of the NHL in 1907, but hadn’t won a championship in since 1961. In a sports town like Chicago and with Michael Jordan and the Bulls dominating in the 90s, the Blackhawks were fading into the background. With a set of high draft picks, it seemed the Blackhawks could make a return to hockey prominence, but they needed the backing of their fans.
Corporate Social Responsibility, commonly known as CSR, is a corporation’s initiative to assess and take responsibility for the company’s effects on environmental and social wellbeing. The best CSR plans are when there is shared value, and when the initiatives match the company’s core competency. Shared value is when the giver (the company) benefits as much as the receiver. A car company’s CSR involves the environment, whereas a book company focuses on improving literacy, especially among children.
For sports organizations, there is no obvious choice of CSR or core competency, so they have more of an option when it comes to CSR. An option could involve kids participating in sports and exercise to combat childhood obesity. A main core competency of sports teams is to entertain their fans and make them smile. This is the core competency the Chicago Blackhawks.
The organization started the “What’s Your Goal” campaign where they ask their fans what their goals are. The campaign has gained critical praise from not only the fans, but from the entire sports community and say the organization started the trend of teams interacting more with their communities.
They have revamped their camping to now include #OurCaptains and #OurRinks. For the “Our Captain” campaign the team is asking its fans to choose leaders in their communities who have impacted their lives. The #OurRinks campaign is about playing hockey wherever you are. The tagline is “You don’t need ice to place hockey your rink is where you make it.” The team has taken Blackhawks players who are from the Chicago area like Scott Darling and Ryan Hartman and surprise fans and play hockey with them where ever they are and whatever their rink is, backyards, basements, or kitchens.
These campaigns, along with three championships in 6 years, are a big reason for the Blackhawks resurgence in Chicago. As of Sept. 2016, they are riding a 321-game sell out streak (including playoff games) at their home area which seats 19, 717 people (23,129 including standing room). CSR campaigns are always a great fall back in case an organization has a negative crisis. It’s not only important for companies to have CSR, but to treat it as a brilliant PR tool.