Arizona Coyotes rebrand embraces its hockey outsider status

One of the (over?) used quotes in enterprise is attributed to hockey legend Wayne Gretzky: “Skate to the place the puck goes, not the place it has been.” Steve Jobs said it. Warren Buffett said it. To be clear, it was really Wayne’s dad, Walter Gretzky, who originated it. Both means, now the Nationwide Hockey League’s Arizona Coyotes are utilizing a brand new rebrand to use Gretzky’s recommendation to its personal hockey membership and model.

“Ask your self, the place is [the puck] entering into America? Younger, feminine, numerous, tech-savvy and function pushed,” says Coyotes president and CEO Xavier Gutierrez. “Right here I’m sitting in Maricopa County, and Phoenix is greater than 40% Latino. If I don’t embrace that, it’s a foul enterprise choice as a lot because it’d be a foul transfer for hockey.”

Main the cost of the membership’s rebrand is a brand new marketing campaign advert, created with advert company MullenLowe LA, that embraces the membership’s winterless id. Overlook pond hockey and snowstorms. That is desert mud, cacti, and lowriders.


Sports activities groups turning a perceived drawback into an attribute just isn’t with out precedent. Again in 2014, the Toronto Raptors launched the “We The North” marketing campaign that took its status because the NBA’s solely Canadian outpost—usually seen as an Achilles’ heel for attracting prime stars—and turned it right into a badge of honor, earlier than turning into a full-on cultural phenomenon amongst Canadian hoops followers.

Coyotes vp of selling Tania Moreno says the purpose right here was to create a tribute to Arizona and its individuals, whereas additionally bringing new faces into the interpretation of the model. “You actually really feel the soul of the desert right here,” says Moreno. “All of the individuals within the movie aren’t actors, simply actual individuals—native enterprise house owners, gamers from our native youth group applications, ranchers, craftspeople—it’s a real illustration of Arizona’s variety.”

Staff proprietor Alex Meruelo purchased controlling curiosity within the group in 2019, turning into the one Hispanic controlling proprietor of an NHL membership. Gutierrez says that whereas a part of the job is to persuade the individuals of Arizona to embrace hockey, to do it, that embrace must go each methods. “I’m usually requested if [the] Latino group, and different numerous audiences can embrace hockey, and the reply is sure,” he says. “However it’s hockey that should lengthen its hand and open the doorways first. That’s what we attempt to do.”

NHL hockey in Arizona started again in 1996, when the then-Winnipeg Jets moved south to develop into the Phoenix Coyotes. From the snowy heartland of the quickest recreation on ice to a hockey desert in all senses of the phrase. The league in contrast the dwindling crowd sizes and inhabitants of a mid-sized Canadian metropolis to the booming American southwest—coupled with the recognition of a Gretzky-led Los Angeles Kings, main as much as and past the 1993 Stanley Cup win—and noticed sheer untapped potential.

The league and membership have been chasing that potential ever since. Even Gretzky himself noticed it as the place the puck was going when he purchased a ten% possession stake within the membership in 2000. Nevertheless, membership possession grew to become a revolving door, till in 2009 when the membership went bankrupt and truly needed to be run by the NHL itself between 2009 and 2013.

For years, as a consequence of these possession points, in addition to ongoing lease points with its area companions, persistent rumors hovered that the group was this near transferring to Portland, Seattle, Quebec Metropolis, or anyplace else however Arizona. That has all impacted the group’s model, including to the problem of any new advertising and marketing efforts.

“We weren’t right here earlier than, and we perceive a prolonged historical past of challenges, of uncertainty, and instability,” says Gutierrez. “And but for us, we all know there’s a demarcation line we wish to transfer ahead from, and these new efforts are part of that. We don’t have the nicely of credibility that different groups have with a long time of stability and success. I don’t have a Stanley Cup to level to, so we’ve to go and construct it. That’s thrilling as a result of we will construct it in our personal means.”


Whereas Meruelo’s possession has introduced a brand new sense of stability to the membership, in addition to a dedication to Arizona, it hasn’t prevented its personal points. The group was widely criticized in October 2020 for initially choosing Mitchell Miller within the NHL draft, a participant who had bullied a Black, developmentally challenged classmate as a teen. The Coyotes ultimately lower ties with Miller, however the injury was accomplished. Then in February, The Athletic published a story reporting incidents of monetary and office dysfunction throughout the group.

Gutierrez says the Miller draft choose was a mistake. “We went down a path, tried to present a younger man a second alternative, however that wasn’t aligned with what he wished to do, so we in the end determined he didn’t align with who we’re or what we stand for,” says Gutierrez. “We owned as much as the choice, and adjusted course, and moved on.”

Addressing the accusations in The Athletic story, Gutierrez says Meruelo’s observe report as a enterprise proprietor and his capacity to draw and retain expertise converse for itself. He additionally says that the Coyotes boast one of the crucial numerous staffs within the NHL, that’s 45% feminine, in addition to the most important feminine entrance workplace within the league.

The Coyotes legacy isn’t all destructive. It additionally contains establishing a powerful youth hockey ecosystem within the space, one which helped childhood Coyotes fan, and present Toronto Maple Leafs star, Auston Matthews develop into the primary total choose within the 2016 NHL draft. In September, the membership introduced it was reminiscent of its historical past—and tapping into ’90s throwback trendiness—by bringing again its unique “Kachina” as its major brand after consulting with followers. Along with a rebrand, the membership can also be working to determine a everlasting, team-owned area, since its present lease on the Gila River Enviornment is up after this season.

Taking on what has traditionally been the NHL’s resident basketcase franchise was by no means going to be straightforward. However the Coyotes see their salvation as a model within the very place that so many in hockey have criticized through the years as a non-hockey market.

“We’re moving into a brand new id and welcoming our state to actually reimagine what a hockey group can signify,” says Moreno. “We’re displaying individuals the way forward for hockey in the present day.”