Calder Cup Champions - 2013 & 2017
AHL Affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings
Hero Image


Jan 20, 2018
Written By: EdenCreative

The Griffins organization partners with local businesses to help them reach their marketing goals.

Story by Mark Newman / Photo by Sam Iannamico

Detroit-based Better Made Snack Foods had been in the business of making potato chips for more than 80 years, but their presence in West Michigan was somewhat limited.

Four years ago, Better Made president Mark Winkelman was looking for an opportunity to rcraise the profile of his company’s product line in the Grand Rapids area, so he saw a chance to achieve his goal by enlisting the help of the local hockey team.

“The Griffins are so beloved by Grand Rapids, we felt we could really raise the consciousness of our product by becoming a sponsor,” he said. “So we wanted to get our name in front of their fans, and of course snacks and sports go together incredibly well, so it’s a natural for us. We couldn’t be any happier with our partnership.”

Better Made is one of dozens of corporate sponsors who have discovered the benefits of a business joining the Griffins organization – a winning combination.

“We’re in the business of making our sponsors successful,” said Sean Wright, the Griffins’ vice president of corporate sales. “There are no guarantees in advertising, of course, but we put our best foot forward to promote their goals and needs.”

The Griffins’ sales team focuses on a prospective client’s marketing strategy rather than selling an inventory of signage, promotional or ticketing options. “When we meet with a potential client, we don’t leave behind a brochure or canned proposal,” he said. “We ask questions and we listen.”

Wright said the purpose of the first meeting with clients is to determine their goals, which results in a Client’s Needs Analysis (CNA).

“We hope to walk away from that meeting with a better understanding of what they need, what has worked for them and what hasn’t,” he said. “Once we have a general concept of the client’s needs, we sit down as a group to formulate a plan with some options to help them successfully achieve their goals.”

The Griffins are able to offer an assortment of promotional options, from dasher board signage to social media to traditional marketing opportunities like radio commercials to Griffiti magazine ads. “Their custom-built package really depends upon what they need to achieve their goals,” Wright said. “Often it’s a mixture of options.”

Wright contends the Griffins are open to new ideas for marketing. “Our promotional list is a white board,” he said. “If a client comes to us with an idea, we’ll try to find a way to do it.”

For example, the Griffins created an Instagram promotion this season for The Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck in the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. The goal was to highlight dishes served at the downtown restaurant. Griffins defenseman Joe Hicketts visits The Kitchen once a month for the purpose of an Instagram post that gives fans the chance to “swipe up” to make a reservation.

“Social media is the one arena that interests a lot of clients,” Wright said. “We have many clients who find our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts highly desirable due to our large number of followers.”

Fox Motors sponsors a Facebook and Twitter contest that gives fans a chance to win VIP parking inside Van Andel Arena. Michigan First Credit Union maintains a strong presence on the Griffins’ social media platform, including the team’s Game Day Preview. United Dairy Industry of Michigan (“Milk Means More”) sponsors the Projected Lineups on Twitter.

“Businesses today want to be mobile,” Wright said. “Social media is not only effective, but it’s fun to put together for our clients.”

Some tie-ins may seem obvious. Marge’s Donut Den is a small business that has found its “sweet spot” with the Griffins by sponsoring the Sweetheart of the Game promotion. Meijer’s “falling prices” was illustrated by parachute drops of redeemable coupons into the stands.

“I love getting our staff together to noodle out ideas that our client might like,” he said. “We have a lot of ways to address the needs of our prospective clients. It’s incumbent on our sales team to find the best fit with their plans.”

A number of sponsors get involved out of a desire to boost their community relations.

“We have a lot of sponsors who want to help raise money for a specific cause, whether’s it’s Uccello’s sponsoring Tip-A-Griffin to raise money for the Griffins Youth Foundation or Michigan Office Solutions doing a food drive for Kids’ Food Basket,” Wright said.

“We continue to increase the number of corporate sponsors by focusing on clients’ needs. Of course, having a winning team doesn’t hurt either.”