By Jeremy Ellis
At the conclusion of their Pee Wee Gold award presentation, the Norcal Swaglete had some unfinished business. Yes they proudly wore the freshly earned gold medal around their necks, but they were anxious to get to the Alkali hockey booth that sits here in our vendor section at Finals. Why? Jay Russell, Brand Manager for the year old company had told the team during playoffs that they would get new Alkali shirts should they take home the gold. When they came to collect, Jay had a dilemma; he found that he was short one shirt for one of the Swag players. There was only one thing to do; give him the shirt off his back, literally!
Stories like these occur every day among the hundreds of interactions between NARCh sponsors and players, families, and coaches. This event is the one that is circled and starred every year on the calendar of any company that wants to market a product to the roller hockey community. With over 300 teams at this year’s finals, each with 8-12 players, companies can reach more people here in two weeks than they can the entire rest of the year.
It is typical to look on the schedule at any time and see a matchup reading like this: Tour Roadrunners versus the Alkali High Rollers. The relationship between team and sponsor is symbiotic. The support a sponsor can give a team helps make the trip to events like this possible. In return, that company gets name recognition, long term support, and product feedback. More importantly, the players see that the vendor truly supports them and is invested in their success. “The kids feel special wearing our product and seeing us at the rink watching their games,” said Brad Brussatti, sales and product manager for Tour Hockey.
No other event brings people together like this one. All skill levels are represented from the novice to pro. “It is the best event for the top hockey in the sport,” stated Revision Hockey’s Tyler Svoboda. “Having a presence at NARCh for a company like us is necessary. This is the one place where we can create brand recognition, meet players, and forge new relationships.” Revision started as a urethane company, with the primary product being wheels. A walk through the booth now finds various wheel models but in addition sticks bags, apparel, and equipment. All of these items have gained traction due to their exposure at NARCh Finals over the years. Svoboda also echoes the sentiment of Brussatti in that it is important to show support for the teams they sponsor.
Reebok hockey has made a return to vendor row this year. The decision to attend Finals coincided with the presence of the Reebok sponsored team in the NARCh Pro division. The Pro division draws some of the biggest crowds at the event and with that Reebok looks to capitalize on that exposure. Long time NARCh player Mike Urbano was recently hired on at Reebok and was tasked with growing the brand within Roller Hockey circles. Companies realize that besides skates, equipment is the same in both ice and roller. So, while a company is predominantly marketed to roller hockey enthusiasts, they know that those same buyers often play ice as well. They need to broaden that customer base to achieve success. Finals draw in the casual fan along with the enthusiast, a mixture of dedication that leads to sales.
In 2011 at Estero Florida, Alkali Hockey burst onto the roller hockey scene. At the helm of this young enterprise is Joe Cook, a legendary figure in the community, and previously successful at building hockey brands that still thrive. Cook utilized the Finals as his brand launch. “Any company that wants to be successful in this market knows how important this event is. It is the pinnacle of the sport,” stated Cook. With the momentum gained last year in Florida, Alkali has reached some lofty goals, including product placement with the top 20 dealers in the sport. The Finals every year has a large international contingent, something recognized by Cook and company. “We have forged bonds with customers and dealers internationally that were initiated at the NARCh Finals.” The Alkali booth is a hotbed of activity on a daily basis. From playing Xbox against the Alkali staff to trying out the new equipment, each interaction plants the seed of a long term relationship.
Everyone who steps foot into the arena appreciates the presence of all the sponsors at this year’s Finals. While they use this event to help them grow, we here at NARCh use them to help us bring you the best event possible. Things would not be the same without them and we cherish their presence. Everyone who is anybody in this sport knows this is the place to be and the time to be here. Thank you once again to all of our NARCh sponsors!