Steel City Pride

JeffJ12    June 13, 2016

In the 1950’s and 60’s Evelyn Ryan, a mother of 10 kept her children fed by entering and winning contests for jingles and advertising slogans of 25 words or less. She submitted multiple entries, under various names, for contests by Dial, Lipton, Paper Mate and Kleenex. Evelyn’s story, The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio  has been told in both print, with a biography written by her daughter and on the silver screen, where she was portrayed by Julianne Moore.

What Evelyn and these other companies didn’t realize is they were one of the first to introduce what we now call Crowdsourcing.

Crowdsourcing is about “engaging a crowd,” often to help innovate or problem solve by contributing an idea, time, expertise or funds to a project or cause. In Evelyn’s case she was engaged in contributing her time and ideas for the companies. In the 50’s and 60’s it wasn’t known as crowdsourcing but this form of product development has quickly caught on and is prevalent right alongside the use of social media.

Social media has enabled crowdsourcing to become a popular tool for product development and design. It allows more people to participate, collaborate and engage in innovative activities and facilitates new ideas that may emerge quicker than they ever have before.

As with anything that involves public engagement there can be risks. Most of the time it is a great way to involve customers or fans but there have been incidences where involving the public has not turned out so positively. When the Natural Environment Research Council wanted to name their polar research vessel the public overwhelmingly wanted to name it “Boaty Mcboatface.” Closer to home in 2012, Mountain Dew was forced to abandon a poll to name its new apple-flavoured drink after it was hijacked by the message board 4chan who ensured that their choice would win the vote (I will not post the so-called winning name as it is inappropriate).

Let’s put the focus on a community that was engaged, asked for their opinion and truly showed why crowdsourcing can be a valuable tool for an organization.

Having only played 1 season in Hamilton, how do you engage a fan base and community with a history of junior teams such as the Junior Red Wings, Fincups and Steelhawks? You let them pick their team’s jersey. On Jan 22, 2016, The Hamilton Bulldogs announced a jersey contest asking for community input to help inspire their new jerseys for the 2016-2017 season. It was about revitalization and the Hamilton community putting their mark on the Bulldogs. The club’s jersey should be a reflection of the fan base.

Fans were asked to submit their designs to the Bulldogs through social media and email. Three designs were chosen, then put to a fan ballot vote and at the Bulldogs final regular season game in March the newly improved “fan designed” jersey was unveiled. In the end a very familiar design and colour scheme was chosen. The black and gold synonymous with Hamilton, the surrounding communities and their sports teams was once again being embraced. The fans of the Hamilton Bulldogs played a major role in the re-brand.

I had the good fortune to chat with Associate Coach and Assistant GM, Troy Smith and he summed up the process by saying “As a new OHL team in Hamilton, we want our fans to not only engage, but identify with our team: their team. The jersey contest allowed our fans to engage with us across all social media platforms, and have a say in how their team, the Hamilton Bulldogs, look and what colours our fans feel most identify with Hamilton.“

Lessons for Others

Fans and customers want to be involved with their favorite organizations. Crowdsourcing is just one way to engage and involve the public. In terms of sports organizations, this involvement through social media, helps teams create a two-way conversation, builds connections with the community and makes the fans feel that this is “their” team. In return, the organization creates loyal, long-term fans that are passionate about the club.

As a person who was born and lived in Hamilton for over 25 years,  I am proud to say the fans got it right! The Hamilton Bulldogs Hockey Club will be successful as long as they continue to engage the local community. They are off to a great start, especially with Troy Smith behind the bench and Steve Staios in the front office as President and GM. Both of these gentlemen were born and grew up in Hamilton. They understand what it means to live and work in Hamilton. The future looks bright for The Hamilton Bulldogs.

Organization: The Hamilton Bulldogs
Industry: Sports Entertainment
Name of Organization Contact: Steve Staios - President and GM, Troy Smith Associate Coach and Assistant GM

Authored by: Jeff Johnson

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The Hamilton Bulldogs (2016), retrieved June 13, 2016

Hamilton Bulldogs Unveil 2016-17 Jerseys (2016), retrieved June 13, 2016

Crowdsourcing: Wikipedia (2016), Retreived June 13, 2016, from

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