It may not work at Yankee Stadium, where rules against facial hair are still in place a bit, but in the NHL, the second year of Beard-A-Thon continues to be one of the most unique fan engagement actoivation events in any sport.
The brainchild of East Aurora, New York based Cenergy, Beard-A-Thon encourages fans (mostly male we hope) fans in each NHL playoff city to not shave during their team’s playoff run. Fans who don’t shave are encouraged to find pledge support, with monies going to local charities. The idea started last season, with over $350,000 dollars going to local charities. Through round one of this year’s playoffs, with an ample ramp up and brand familiarity amongst many fans, over $200,000 has already gone in, with the Pittsburgh Penguins leading the way thus far.
King of Shaves, a longtime supporter of the St. Baldrick’s charity events where people shave their head for cancer, has come on as a supporting sponsor this year of the hockey-based tradition, where players show support and superstition by not shaving during the playoffs. The program has also picked up more viral support this year than last, with the increased viral play adding to the popularity.
Of course the best is yet to come, as teams move on and the facial hair grows over the next month. Could there be a locks of love element added to the end of the promotion, where a brand comes on to do the shaving of the losing team’s fans during the finals? Maybe throw in a head shaving element for charity as well? And what about the ladies?
As hockey grows in popularity amongst women, and even with kids, what additional elements can be added in? There is no doubt that the communal bond amongst hockey fans is really encapsulated in Beard-A-Thon. Like the Winter Classic, it has a cache that can be NHL-specific and can grow (no pun intended) over time, with maybe even adding in virtual beards for more involvement.
As in many cases, its the simple ideas that sometimes can have the greatest impact, and Beard-A-Thon is certainly one that can reach that potential.