John Franzone – VP Tampa Lightning (Page 4)

Interview with Tampa Bay Lightning’s John Franzone. John talks about staying on brand with your show, cowbells and much more.

Cudo: I like it. Let’s talk a little bit about the Toledo Walleye who as I look through the promotional schedules, they sort of rang the bell, if you will, of a minor-league team and obviously they’re owned by the same people who own the Toledo Mud Hens who are using sort of the formula of minor-league baseball promotions in minor-league hockey now. They have a busy schedule and I’ll touch on a couple.

They have Star Wars Night where they’re doing a custom jersey much like the baseball teams do and they’re actually having the Kalamazoo Wings in a custom jersey, a Darth Vader theme jersey, which is great.

I don’t think I’ve seen any other team do that where you had visitors actually wear another custom jersey, which is just fantastic. We talk about how teams are kind of parlaying some success that baseball teams have used and hockey teams.

See the end of this interview for Star Wars Night Content on

Star Wars Night Special Jersey

Franzone: When I first came here coming from baseball ice, the biggest challenge I had was that in baseball you got the stage, which is your field and your dug out.   Three if they use the outfield like the Washington Nationals do with the President’s Race. (See our feature on Live Racing)

But you don’t have that in hockey generally, you only get the ice for about three minutes for intermission, so you’ve really got to make it count.

So minor-league baseball has long been just a storefront of just creativity and fun and to be able apply that in hockey which typically the old stereotype was the organist plays for 17 minutes between periods is wise-wise moving. And if you can find something that sort of fits what you’re going for you might as well look no further than minor-league baseball, especially because it’s clever and it’s clever on a nickel which I always have great admiration for.

But shoot, if you can make it work and it fits and your brain starts working in a bunch of different ways. We had Star Wars Night here believe or not two years ago and it was a huge hit.

We did a commemorative puck that you could the purchase in the team store. We did our shootout game in the intermission and instead of the shootout we had a dead star in front of the gold net and you had to shoot the pack and when the pack went in it blew up on the screen.

We also do the right way and we partnered up with Lucasfilm to roll clips and it tied back to their pushing the six film Blu-Ray pack. We had the local Star Wars 501 Group here and there at the Legion and that was wonderful. They came all dressed up with their R2-D2’s and Stormtroopers. I mean, it was authentic stuff.  So, it rang true like we always say we want to partner with best brands that are authentic and from a movie character standpoint it looks something from Disney so you’re right there. It was just a well put together promotion and frankly it was put together by a guy in group sales who just had a passion for it and he led the charge with it. So it worked out very well and they were thrilled with it and we carried it over again into our Tampa Bay Storm season. It was just a lot of fun, so go with it.

But again, having a passion for it, it’s one thing to say it but then once you own it whoever that person is there’s always going to be a quarterback behind each of these. And like I just referenced, it really doesn’t matter what department they sort of roost in for the most part, but if they own it they have a passion for it and they can see it and they can see it happen and then you’re in good hands.

Cudo: Yeah. Actually I talked about this last podcast or two podcasts ago a promotion with Lake County Captains where the same story was kind of like a nothing throwaway night and they just found somebody in group sales who just dove in and they just loved it and it just blossomed into something that you would never have dreamed of.

Franzone: It’s a lot of work!  To just to dump and say on your game presentation group, they spend 60% or 70% of their time just going through the cookie-cutter motion of it. But just going through the daily rundown of stuff you’ve got to make just to go through a game and it doesn’t matter what kind of game it is, you know you have your sponsored features and other promotions that are daily that you have to freshen up and everything else.

So they only throw a special night or special promo on top of it. It’s a lot of extra work and it’s as much lead time you can get in front of it. You’ve probably heard that a gazillion times and you can’t do it in a day but someone can take the lead in it and it’s not necessarily your group that you can use your creativity and group’s talent to bring it to life. That’s really the most ideal sort of set of circumstances.

Cudo: One more note from Toledo. They have an ugly sweater night, which is a lot of things are done where the fans wear the ugliest sweater and they have a contest. But I love that they’ve tied this in and I may be missing the fact that this has been done all over for years, but is the first I’d heard of it where the players or actually their sweaters or their game night jerseys are ugly sweater designed. Yeah, that’s really funny. I love that one.

Franzone: That’s great.

Cudo: A couple from the Gwinnett Gladiators down near Atlanta, they have a great promotion called Sing for Santa and it’s two different games and they have like a school or choral groups who come in and sing. A thousand Metro Atlanta area school kids participate in a first intermission holiday concert which obviously you have some ticket drivers there and you have a great festive feel and the holiday spirit. I really love that one and it stood out as a really clever addition. Like I said it’s just great to just get bodies in there.

Franzone: Sure. It’s funny because that’s always sort of the end game in especially minor-league sports like let’s fill the seats, we’ve got to come up with something to fill the seats and so there’s an end game there. And generally speaking for most franchises, hopefully most franchises you have to fill only a handful of seats. So the logic shifts a little bit because again the manpower because if we do it on a bigger stage, then it has got to be a bigger execution.

I always struggle with that myself because what works good for minor-league team means you’ve got a ton of ticket inventory to deal with and it’s their night and you can have it. Whereas someone in fact yesterday asked me, ‘Can I get this four-minute video in for one of our clients?’ And I’m like, ‘You’re kidding, right? I don’t have four seconds and I’m so packed with stuff.’

But yeah, that’s always been a struggle where on my side is good honor for adopting that. We’re fortunate and with the weather and everything we have a beautiful Plaza, which we just branded for our Thunder Alley in front of the building for another plug.

We have a nice stage out there and we have some gourmet food truck, which is a kind of thing which is big down here. I don’t know how big it is anywhere else for food trucks to arrange locally in the club scene here.

What else have we got out there? The Corona Party Tent. So we use our property out the front our main entrance sort of to be the welcome mat and the first stop on game night and we have a stage out there. So we kind of do something sort of like that but not on that level and that’s great.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Cudo: Well, to tell what I’m looking at the clock right now and I realize we’ve probably made this the longest podcast interview in our history, which is great because it has been fantastic insight and information.

I would love to have you back. I’m not going to put you on the hook and say will you come back because number one, I don’t want to put you on the hook like that and then number two, I fear you’ll say no and I’ll look like an idiot.

Franzone: No, I would never do that to you, Jon. (laughs)

You can also listen to this interview on the November 2013 Podcast on

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