Hockey cards, T-shirts and even libations. There’s been no slowing the Seattle Kraken down when it comes to getting fans to part with their money in the name of all types of merchandise.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the team confirmed its season-ticket waitlist had expanded by about 13,300 since the naming announcement just under two weeks ago and now sits at 51,700. Meanwhile, sales of Kraken merchandise across all platforms of online retail giant Fanatics are roughly four times greater than the opening two-week sales for the NHL’s prior 2017 expansion team, the Vegas Golden Knights.
“Even though we’re kind of in an interesting August circumstance right now where the NHL is happening, NBA is happening and MLB is happening — despite all those other leagues, the Kraken are still a top-five selling team since they launched,” Fanatics spokesperson Seth Schlechter said Tuesday.
The team also had the Nos. 2 and 3 best-selling items across all Fanatics platforms, including NHLShop.com and the official merchandise sites of most major sports leagues and several individual teams. The No. 2 best-seller is a Kraken navy logo T-shirt, while No. 3 is a branded tri-blend T-shirt, both trailing only the WNBA orange hoodie sent to celebrities and athletes to promote the league’s season starting.
Upper Deck last Friday made available the franchise’s first official hockey card, featuring a photo of the Space Needle with the Kraken flag flying atop it. The card is being made available for a limited time as part of the Upper Deck Game Dated Moments series and can be unlocked by purchasing any qualifying NHL pack at www.upperdeckepack.com.
“We’re getting orders from Europe, we’re getting orders from Asia and it’s kind of just unique to see the interest in a card like this,” said Chris Carlin, Upper Deck’s Senior Manager of Customer Experience. “Certainly, there’s interest in North America — in the United States and Canada — but to see it coming from all over is a sign that we anticipate there’s going to be a lot of interest in the Seattle Kraken when they take the ice in 2021.”
Last week, Kraken Rum officially announced it was becoming the NHL team’s official rum partner, confirming an earlier Seattle Times report. Though there’s no immediate word of any impact on regional sales, hockey fans instantly took to social media displaying Kraken Rum bottles and the company’s other accessories in posts about the team.
Dustin York, an associate professor of communications at Maryville University in St. Louis and director of the school’s graduate and undergraduate communications programs said the team did two big things right in launching the name.
“I think their salespeople did a really good job at branding,” said York, who’s worked with brands like Nike, Pepsi and Scottrade Financial Services and also on Barack Obama’s 2008 Presidential campaign. “It could have been a hit. It could have been a miss. Either way, there are a lot of examples of hits and misses. I know with rebranding, recently the Clippers didn’t come out so well with their new logo.”
But the Kraken did, he added, by nailing two specific things — a cultural rapport with their local audience and their success at hitting all available marketing channels through public relations, local news and social media with a consistent, positive message about the Kraken.
“Just the geographic location near water and the mythical creature of the Kraken, I think there are some neat things you can do with the name,” he said, adding it works despite the mythology of the creature hailing from the Norwegian Sea and not the Pacific Ocean. “Simply being close to water is an opportunity. Also, having a similar color scheme as the Seahawks and local teams, some of that same Pacific Northwest branding does very well.”
And like the Tennessee Titans, another team with a name not specifically linked to regional geography, he sees the Kraken “going for something big and strong” and connecting with the local community. One thing to watch out for, he added, is adequately educating the general public on what a Kraken is and being careful with any imagery of the creature itself.
“I think that has some opportunity there,” he said. “But also, the weakness is you kind of have to create it from scratch. There’s the movie version of a Kraken that’s basically an octopus or a squid. But what is their imagery? I think that can be a miss if not taken well. But also, an opportunity.”
A column appearing Tuesday in Sports Business Daily suggested the Kraken’s future home — Climate Pledge Arena — may have actually landed the biggest sale of all from a name. The column suggested a recent naming rights deal completed with Amazon by the arena’s developer, Oak View Group (OVG), was “valued at” $400 million over 20 years.
But one source with direct knowledge of the deal said on background the reported terms were not accurate.
If true, that $20 million a year average would exceed even the widely applauded $15 million the NBA’s Golden State Warriors are generating annually over 20 years at their new Chase Center arena in San Francisco. It would also double the $10.84 million annual payment over 15 years by CenturyLink in their 2017 naming rights pact at the Seahawks’ home stadium, while far outpacing the reported $3.5 million Mariners yearly take from their 25-year pact signed with T-Mobile in December 2018.
Katie Townsend, a Kraken spokesperson also speaking on behalf of OVG, declined to confirm or refute the report.
“We do not discuss the terms of our partner deals,” Townsend said. “This is a long-term partnership and we’re excited to make Climate Pledge Arena a symbol for sustainability across the entertainment and sports world.”
Just as the NHL team playing within it will look to sustain the early momentum its name has built.