Blinkfire has been lucky to call the Florida Panthers customers since 2022. The 2022-23 NHL season will live forever in the hearts of Florida Panthers fans. The Panthers won six of their last eight games of the regular season to slip into the #8 seed in the Eastern Conference. In the first round, they pulled off a stunning upset against the #1 seed Boston Bruins, going on a Cinderella run to the second Stanley Cup Finals appearance in franchise history and the first since 1996.
Ahead of the 2023-24 NHL season, we caught up with Kinsey Janke, Director of Social & Brand Strategy at the Panthers, for her behind-the-scenes take on the incredible playoff run, including the team’s content marketing strategy, winning Game 7 versus the Bruins, and the wonderful chaos that is social media. Along with their success on the ice, the Panthers’ digital and social content team took full advantage of the unlikely playoff run.
What was going through your mind when you’re going into overtime of Game 7 in Boston during the first round of the playoffs? The next two weeks of your life can look incredibly different based on the bounce of a puck in the next few minutes.
This might sound crazy, but honestly not as much as you might think. Sitting in that press box in TD Garden, it is LOUD. I spent the intermission between the end of regulation and the start of overtime texting with our social media coordinator, Tori, writing potential captions, getting our ducks in row for a potential win and preparing our content. Then once the puck drops in overtime (OT), I’m up with our camera filming.
For each OT game this run (and, boy, did it feel like there were A LOT), I filmed from the press box on our Canon R5 – so usually the first clip we posted of the OT winner was the view from above. Since I’m doing that, I am laser-focused on the game and making sure I’m following the play.
Once we won, I went into grind mode, essentially. Tori and I are in constant contact making sure graphics are going out and photos are getting posted. Since I’m on the ground with the team, I’m capturing content as well as our video team to make sure we’re covering every single moment we can. It’s usually not until much later that it all hits me and I can sit and think, “Wow, so that was cool, huh?”
In the moment, I try to stay as focused and even keeled as I can, so I can make sure nothing on our accounts is over the line, not on brand, etc. The accounts are still highly emotional but more so taking on the emotion of the fans and the players versus the emotions of the social team.
You spent five seasons on the social team at the Tampa Bay Lightning, including a Stanley Cup championship) before joining the Panthers in late 2020. You’ve really seen it all, but how was this playoff run unique for you?
Every playoff run is special, but this run to the final was something I’ll take with me forever.
I saw a lot of winning in Tampa, and I’ve been blessed to see a lot of winning since I arrived in South Florida, but even with all the success at the Lightning, I never got to cover it the way I did here. The Lightning’s 2020 run was in the bubble due to the COVID season. Because of that, our entire social and content team had to do everything remotely (massive shoutout to NHL Social and NHL Studios who worked tirelessly to bring us the content we normally would have gotten ourselves!!). We did the parade in person (truly a core memory), but everything else was from afar.
This year I was able to travel with the team, be on the ice for the ECF celebration, and be in the room for all the big wins and the big losses. It was really such a special time and something I’m so grateful to have been a small part of. We had an amazing group of players, an incredible coaching staff, and an unreal support staff with our equipment team and trainers, and they made it so much fun to come to work every day.
What are the trips back home like after road wins?
They’re fun! Everyone is in a great mood, everyone’s feeling loose and excited to get home, and the plane has a really comfortable atmosphere. We’ll eat on the ride home, lots of guys will play cards or listen to music, and then I usually watch a TV show on my iPad or sleep if it’s a late-night trip home.
For those who have never worked for a team, during these types of playoff runs, are there regular meetings to discuss content strategy, or is it flying by the seat of your pants as you try to create the most engaging content possible? How do you stay organized in such a chaotic time? Lots of coffee?
A bit of both! The social team works closely with our graphic designers, and we worked round by round (often game by game) on the hype graphics that we made the central part of our content.
Many of our ideas were planned in advance (like the rat graphics we posted after each win), but some of them we’d be throwing ideas around in our Slack channel, and they would come to life on a dime. A perfect example of this was our “Slayed the Beast” graphic we posted after we defeated the Bruins. We knew we had to make a statement, and one of our designers had previously come up with the idea of a bear rug but the night before Game 7, I made an offhand comment about “slaying the beast,” and then our designer made ART happen with all the different ideas. Luckily, we got to post it!!
The same thing with our video team. We have specific ideas we all know are happening, but we work closely with them to turn quick moments around because in sports you simply never know what’s coming next. It’s all about how we react.
Every team has a different tone of voice and strategy on social. From an outsider’s perspective, it seems like the Panthers have an inviting tone while still throwing in some sass every now and then. What are the main tenets of the brand your team looks to build with the Panthers?
We want to welcome everyone as much as we can because we recognize that we are in a market where hockey is still the outlier and that most born and raised Floridians don’t pick up a hockey stick or skates at the age of five.
So in that, we want to be fun, be inviting, a little sassy, (hockey belongs here no matter how many Canadians and northerners will try to tell you otherwise!), and be the stewards of our brand the best way we can be whether that’s promoting our players, our community efforts, or our fanbase.
We recognize that hockey in South Florida might look and feel a little different than, say, Toronto or Philadelphia or New York or Boston, but that’s ok. We like it like that. It offers us as creatives and marketing professionals to really flex our muscles and find new ways to write, design, create, and promote our brand that would probably never work or resonate in another market. We’re unique, and we like that.
What content did you put a big emphasis on your team creating this year that performed well?
Our hype graphics! We have an incredible graphic design team that does a great job of showing off our players, our market, and our brand throughout their work all season. With our team named after the Florida panther, we decided to really lean into using that imagery and creating a sense of community around the panther and our players. We wanted to create graphics that would force you to stop scrolling.
We worked closely with our creative team throughout the regular season to make them for big games, but as a group we decided we were really going to turn it up for the playoffs. Once that turned into a true run, we’d meet as a group to go over ideas, themes, and concepts and create a narrative for each series depending on wins, losses, where the games were, etc. It was such a fun time to do that hand-in-hand with our designers, and I think both myself and Tori really learned how big our ideas can go and how far our designers can take something half-baked we blurt out in Slack and turn into such a beautiful and impactful piece of art.
How did your partnership and marketing departments work together to execute your corporate partnerships during the 2023 playoff run?
We work super closely with our partnerships team all the time but especially during the playoff run. We have a playoff presenting partner, CITY Furniture, so that’s a project the larger marketing team works on with the activation team to go over all the assets CITY receives, how they look, where they go, how they’re executed, etc. to make sure everyone is on the same page and things can roll smoothly.
We have weekly meetings to go over any additional assets, watch parties, fan rallies, giveaways, and the like. Those mixed with lots of texts, calls, and desk drive-bys really helped keep us on track with all the assets and execution needed during a deep run like ours.
Since using Blinkfire, how has the way you think about partnerships, content, and activations changed?
It has! Seeing the valuation Blinkfire places on our content series and how the partnerships team works from there to sell and renew sponsors has been a game changer for us. To see the actual dollar amount attached to what we’re doing is amazing for the social team.
Social teams, along with the larger marketing team that encompasses creative, video, and game press, work so hard behind the scenes. While we know exactly how hard we work and what goes into everything, it isn’t always easy to communicate that without a qualifier of some sort that non-digital natives will understand. Having Blinkfire to help set that up has really given us a lot of pride in our work and a chance to show people just how much we contribute.
While I’m sure there are too many names to name, who are some of the people on your team that were in the trenches through your playoff run you want to shout out?
My social media coordinator, Tori, is the big one! We were in near 24/7 communication for three months, and we made so many decisions and created so much content together.
Tori recently completed a year-end recap of all our stats from the year, and it was really humbling to see that the work we put in translated into so many more new followers, a ton of engagement, and a sense that we really had accomplished something so special together.
The 2022-23 Florida Panthers season stats based on data in Blinkfire from 10/7/22 – 06/13/23
- 153,500 new followers (+14.7% growth)
- 12 million engagements
- 76.8 million video views
Our graphic design team – Jeremie, Austin, Caroline, Jose, Kris, and Adam – were true rockstars enabling us to post the sickest graphics and pair the copy of our dreams with each and every game and help us push such a strong brand narrative and flip the stereotypes of Florida hockey on its head.
Our video team – TJ, Nick, Gabe, and Dave – really helped us tell the story of the playoffs with shots from the glass, goals filmed from the top level so you could see our arena erupting in chaos for a Cats’ goal, and watch party footage to show off how packed every game was when the team was on the road.
Social takes a village, and I am endlessly proud of everything we accomplished.
Win with Blinkfire
The Florida Panthers’ 2023 playoff-run will go down as a defining moment in the organization’s history. Even though they didn’t lift the cup, they welcomed in many new fans and successfully energized their fanbase. While the players made this happen on the ice, this all can’t be accomplished without the people behind the scenes. As we just heard, there is a lot of effort and strategy that goes into building content during the wild ride that is playoff hockey. It’s safe to say that traditional hockey towns and fans are now paying attention to this exciting Florida team!
At Blinkfire, we’re proud to work with teams like the Florida Panthers and look forward to continuing to provide them with the most accurate social and sponsorship analytics in the industry.
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