Fifty years of New York Islanders history includes four-straight Stanley Cups from 1980 to 1983, five Cup Final appearances and eight retired numbers.
The Islanders hope all of those numbers grow. It was almost a sixth Cup Final in 2021, but the Isles lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference finals in seven games.
As Long Island’s lone professional sports team, cultural values off the ice are just as important as on-ice success. That’s why the franchise has made it a point to partner with companies with similar values.
Entering their 50th anniversary season, which kicks off when the puck drops at 7:30 p.m. ET Thursday against the Florida Panthers at UBS Arena, the Islanders are making that well known.
Five years ago, the idea of putting a patch on a professional sports uniform seemed crazy. Since then, the Nike logo has been added to MLB jerseys, foul territories have been spray-painted with Fortune 500 company logos and a wide variety of company logos have been stitched on NBA jerseys and placed on NHL helmets.
The home of the Islanders is hardly an exception. Co-owner Jon Ledecky has embraced it, because for him, it’s not about “the last dollar.”
“We’re looking for a brand that will align with us and has our values in mind,” Ledecky, the uncle of Olympic gold swimmer Katie Ledecky, told FOX Business in a recent interview.
“That’s what we’ve found with Jackpocket.”
Jackpocket is the leading mobile lottery app, and it partnered with the Isles in January 2021. The pair made headlines this summer when Islanders ownership purchased 25,000 lottery tickets through the app in hopes of winning a $1.2 billion Mega Millions prize.
Jackpocket’s logo will appear on each Islanders player’s helmet this season.
Over 850 million people caught wind of the promotion, and the app climbed to the top spot in the app store and was the No. 2 trend on Twitter. It was a match made in heaven and a promotion that exceeded expectations on both sides.
“We were really surprised by the performance. It was one of our best-performing marketing deals across all platforms,” Jackpocket CFO Sean Siuda told FOX Business.
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Added Jackpocket’s Vice President of Marketing Michelle Wong: “Working with Jon and the Islanders has been extremely beneficial to, I think, both parties.”
The only negative so far is that Jackpocket didn’t swing lottery numbers in the Islanders’ direction.
“We were hoping Jackpocket would lead us to a win,” Ledecky said with a laugh.
The Islanders didn’t win the big prize, but they did come away with some winnings, which were donated to the Islanders Children’s Foundation.
The Islanders were the first team that Jackpocket partnered with. That number has since grown to 11. But the app’s senior executives still face challenges because the app is not authorized to be used in every state.
Jackpocket officials are hoping the partnership with a team in New York can be the catalyst for more things to come.
“We’re just at the beginning now,” Siuda said. “The deal with the Islanders was a reflection point to get us associated with a top-tier team up there. We plan to expand that as we enter into new states. In each new state, we kind of have to start over in a sense with building the audience because of the nature of our product.
“The hope is not only that we build our brand through the audience of the team, but also we have our own audience that might not have as much exposure to sports. We can run sweepstakes on our apps, so we hope to drive traffic to the teams as well so it’s not just a one-way street for us.”
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“We became the template for that,” Ledecky added. “We showed working with them how that could work in sports. They’ve now embraced it, and, of course, they’re spending the most amount of money on their budget with us, because we’re leading them to the best results in New York.”
He also cited the large sum of lotto tickets he purchased as a “win-win-win” for Jackpocket’s potential future partners.
“It showed the value of associating with a sports brand. That, to me, is the most important thing,” Ledecky said. “They wouldn’t be on the call, they wouldn’t be supporting us, we wouldn’t be supporting them unless this partnership actually worked. And it works for our fans and for our brand, and it works to burnish and increase the viability and visibility of their brand. And that, to me, looking at it from a sports perspective, that’s the hook – that sports brands have largely been undervalued over the years. Sports owners have not understood the power of their brands in the community.”
The partnership could also be beneficial to the league and its players, Ledecky said. More sponsors, more jobs, more money to players and team employees.
“To throw something on a patch just because you want to make some money, that’s not in alignment with our brand. We want the brand to stand for good positive outcomes,” Ledecky said.
That’s what makes the Isles and Jackpocket a perfect match. Ledecky said he will always be associated with brands that make sense in the community.
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“We’re a community trust. We’re a brand that has a lot of standing in the community as many sports brands do. How you manage your brand and how you affiliate your brand becomes more and more vital in a world that’s so multi-cultural, multi-platform. Brand alignment for us is critical,” Ledecky told FOX Business.
“We had to go talk to our players and say, ‘Look, you’re gonna be wearing a helmet home that says ‘Jackpocket’ on it, and underneath it says ‘lottery app.’ We want to make sure you understand what that means. Every time somebody uses the Jackpocket app, money is going to education. Money is going to the school systems of all the different states that all partake in the lottery.
“So this is a brand that you can get behind and support because it’s not just about buying lottery tickets on an app. It’s about the result of where that money goes, and I think that really is important to players that they associate in their careers and that their teams pick the right partners.
“The bottom line is the happiness of our fans and a successful winning franchise. But to do that, you have to affiliate with brands that understand the value of your brand and also are aligned culturally with your brand, and that’s where Jackpocket lines up with us.
“Putting Jackpocket on a helmet, or any brand on a helmet, you’re really sharing the history of your brand with that brand. Every time we score a goal, that person scoring the goal is wearing a Jackpocket helmet. There’s no way around it. It’s a Jackpocket helmet. So you better be sure that your values are aligned with the values of the brand that you’re sharing the helmet patch with, and I think in this case, we are.”
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