Excitement has steadily been building around the Vegas Golden Knights, and the National Hockey League’s newest franchise has been quick to engage fans through the decade’s most influential medium – social media.
“The last year it’s been one of those things that when I had the chance to come to Las Vegas, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I knew it was going to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” reflected Marrazza. “Because it’s not every day there’s a new NHL team and that there’s a team that’s the first major league sports franchise in the history of a city. To be involved with that from Day One, you know there are things that are going to be exciting and maybe you don’t expect.
“I would say it has exceeded my expectations in that regard, even on social media, just to see how popular we’ve gotten and the interest that we’ve had from fans especially – fans in Las Vegas, fans in Edmonton, fans in every city in the league.”
Marrazza let listeners in behind the curtain a little when asked about the directive from the team when it comes to their Twitter account.
“I would say it’s to have fun, but at the same time it’s not just the way I think sometimes people on the outside picture it is that there’s a young guy sitting in an office somewhere in Las Vegas just tweeting and trash-talking,” said Marrazza. “That’s not the organizational message that we’re trying to send, especially as a new franchise.
“I don’t think we started out with the idea that ‘Let’s see this account that we could pick an argument with or this account that we could do it with.’ I think one of the things that we try to do to the best of our ability is to keep it fun and to the best of our ability when we’re having fun, not necessarily having fun at someone else’s expense.
“So I think that’s one of the things that we try to do as a group that I think has helped resonate with fans. The account that is always throwing shade at someone else – that’s been done before. We’d like to do something that maybe has not been done before. So we try to keep it positive, as much as we can; even when it’s something that maybe is perceived as a little bit of shade, it’s still something that’s very tongue-in-cheek and we try to have some humbleness in it as well (since) we are the new team.”
We’re proud to be the only Western Conference team to finish without a losing record at Joe Louis Arena. #Farewell2TheJoe
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) April 9, 2017
Marrazza credits the synergy between the various divisions under the Golden Knights’ umbrella for helping to foster a creative environment.
“I think the thing that’s been really great for us that’s been different than any environment that I’ve ever been in is just the closeness that different departments work together in has been amazing,” he noted. “And that’s what allows for a lot of that creativity and a lot of those things that you mentioned that you’ve seen and you’ve enjoyed to be published. When we have the buy-in from the hockey operations department – which is always huge, when you have all the way up to the general manager supportive of what the team is doing.
“And we work very closely with our public relations department as well. I work in the communications and content department, so it’s under the category of public relations. We sit in one room together. I think at the beginning when we start we have an idea of what we want the voice to be of the twitter account. I think it evolves as time goes on. Even though a lot of the things that are tweeted are things that some people that get to know me would say that’s very much my sense of humor, at the same time it’s about not just what I find funny. It’s something that fits the whole organizational message of what we’re trying to build.
“On some level there’s been the ability to run with things quite a bit. But at the same time, it’s not that I’m just running with things by myself. It’s discussing it with public relations. If hockey ops has an opinion on how the organization is being perceived and how to frame things, then they weigh in as well.
“I’ve worked in a lot of places in my professional career. I’ve never been in a spot where there’s been this much synergy with departments working together. I think that’s what’s allowed for the freedom that maybe some other teams might not necessarily be able to have.”
There’s no doubt some level of challenge in running a platform like a professional sports team’s social media account, since the demographics range wildly.
The commonality though, naturally, is the shared love for said franchise.
Marrazza pointed out that he likes to draw inspiration from more than just other hockey clubs.
“Anybody who runs any social media account has accounts that they’re fans of,” he said. “ … A lot of times we talk to our peers. We talk to other team accounts. That’s one of the great things of working with an NHL team is even though a lot of teams are rivals on the ice, there’s a big sense of community among social media managers with various clubs.
“One of the things I think is important is to pay attention to accounts in other sports and even other companies. Even if their product has nothing to do with hockey or Las Vegas, there’s just the element sometimes of how they operate their accounts that I either enjoy or maybe it sparks something in my head that I do something kind of in a way that they did, but put our own spin on it to relate it to the Golden Knights’ way, so to speak.
“I would say my favorite accounts that I really enjoy following – Wendy’s is always amazing. Denny’s also does a tremendous job… The NBA has some incredible team accounts also – the Portland Trail Blazers, the Atlanta Hawks. Major League Baseball, the Chicago Cubs do a great job, among others.
“For me, it’s just trying to be as current as possible… ”
Occasionally, there are curveballs thrown at the team accounts.
Uh…what are we supposed to do with this? https://t.co/ihUKFsT6xK
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) July 27, 2017
Marrazza went more into detail on the process involved in deciding to craft a reply to this fan’s tweet, but made a point of noting how quickly the turnaround was to get it online.
“I was waiting on line getting lunch,” he recalled. “I was on my phone online, looking at the mentions. I saw that one, we started chatting about it waiting on line, and I think it was before I got my sandwich I think the tweet was already sent out. So that’s how quickly these things some together often times.”
It’ll be intriguing to watch the NHL’s gamble on Vegas play out on and off the ice, but there does seem to be a common (and seemingly pretty reasonable) misconception that the city and team are anxious to see debunked.
“I think one of the things that’s been great about Las Vegas that I think maybe people who are not from here originally maybe don’t necessarily understand is that there’s a whole community off The Strip,” Marrazza pointed out. “Even though this is a magnetic city and there’s a lot of tourism here, there is a community that’s a very proud community that’s never had something like this to call their own.”
To Marrazza’s point, there was a particularly salient – and surprising – revelation from general manager George McPhee made back in January that really resonated at the time about the makeup of the season ticket base.
“It has been fascinating,” said McPhee then. “The interest in this team is really amazing. We’ve sold close to 14,000 season tickets. We’re getting a good price for them, and it’s not big companies – it’s in groups of 2-6 or 2-8. A lot of mom and pop operations, a lot of locals. 98 percent of the people that bought tickets to our games are local. If you go to a show on The Strip, only about four percent of the people are local. Most of it is tourists. So we have a local crowd buying our tickets and it’s not a supermarket or a hotel coming in and buying blocks of 500, it’s the people living here – which is really neat.”
The Golden Knights’ roster has been drafted, the amateur ranks are beginning to be filled, and the franchise is ready for the opening puck drop.
The team will be on the road for its first two games on October 6 and 7 against the Dallas Stars and Arizona Coyotes, and will play its first game in front of the Vegas crowd October 10 against the Coyotes to kick off a seven-game homestand.