In our inaugural edition, nitchCraft takes a look at The Hockey Card Show, an Ontario-based podcast that dives into one of my favourite childhood past times. I learned about them through their active presence on twitter and had the chance to pick the brains of the hosts of the show, Justin (the creator) and Darrin (the comic relief). I’d encourage everyone who loves or once loved hockey cards or even hockey to check out the show, and of course, read the interview below (which might be the least G-Rated content in the history of the blog!).
Brand: The Hockey Card Show
Key Mediums: Podcast (iTunes), twitter (@HockeyCardShow), facebook
Niche: Hockey fans (primarily male), former and present hockey card collectors
nitch*: Thanks for agreeing to do this guys. To begin, let’s get the origin story for the Hockey Card Show – what was your inspiration to start up a podcast on such a niche topic?
Justin: The whole show idea came from Gary Vaynerchuk and one of his videos from his site. After seeing the video I immediately thought of hockey. I hit up ebay and got a box of 93-94 Topps and after building up enough guts sat down with the camera and started filming. I collected cards growing up like most kids do, however I started with basketball and baseball then moved over to hockey later.
Darrin: I collected cards growing up through the 80′s and 90′s and also stopped collecting as I got older. And I have recently started to buy again after Justin asked my sorry ass to do the show with him LOL.
nitch*: Ahhh Gary V strikes again! People looking to start creating content could learn a lot from your initiative – what gave you the confidence to dive into the world of podcasting as a “rookie”?
Justin: I have had blogs in the past on a handful of personal sites and enjoy writing but the video format was the only one that really made sense. It would give it a more real feeling that just researching players and teams and writing about them. I am half ass handy with a computer so knew that I could put together a video podcast after some trial and error.
nitch*: Great points about the value of the video platform. Now that you’ve been going strong for 38 episodes, how did you initially seed growth and what partnerships along the way have helped you to grow audience and exposure?
Justin: When I started doing the show I had blasted out an email to my buddies telling them about the idea, they all said to do but were rather non-commital about stepping in to do it with me. When the first show was posted I was hoping to get 20 views and really thought it would be something rather small that just my friends would watch and talk about. That first show hit 20 and I felt great. The second show was a little different in that Gary Vaynerchuk posted a twitter update praising the show for following his direction. It turned out to be a very large headstart and that show was over 500 views by the days end. We post all over the web any related site welcomes us, views now are any where from 250-1000 depending on the show and where it is posted. Certain promos might be going on that skew the numbers whether it be with Upper Deck, Molson or McDonalds.
nitch*: Great to see Gary giving back and being so supportive. Your points about wide online distribution and the value of promos to attract audience are good ones. Can you talk a little more about those relationships with the sponsors (those are some big names!)?
Justin: Getting contacted from Upper Deck was the first “holy shit” moment in my eyes. It was a simple email from their hobby marketing manager saying the he had seen the show and enjoyed it, he offered up some complimentary product to open on the show. I responded with a “hell ya” but also asked a question regarding National Hockey Card Day and if he could send me some of those as I couldn’t seem to find a location near me that was running the promo. He responded back with seeing if we would be interested in doing a promo video/commercial for their site and for distribution regarding the big day. Very cool and great to work with.
McDonald’s also contacted us for a giveaway, they were launching their annual hockey collectible and wanted the show to give out a set of the NHL Star Helmets. It was up to us to think up a contest and go from there. We decided on a spoof video of the show, and the winning submission still cracks me up. We are hoping to do something similar this coming year, as every year they have some kind of collectible and of course their very popular hockey card sets.
Molson was a bit of trip too. Molson is very active on the web via Twitter, I had sent a DM to one representative I had tweeted with in the past about working with Molson, he quickly responded back with a giveaway idea. It was playoff time so we held a beard growing contest of sorts – The Molson Canadian Beard Off. Grow a post season NHL beard and send in a pic or video and Molson offered up a composite Nike Bauer hockey stick.
All in all everyone one that we have had dealings with have been great and very supportive, and all have left the door open for future endevors. I am not in sales, or marketing, or business…I run a video podcast about hockey with hockey cards acting as a starting point for debate. I am rolling with the punches and learning as I go, and loving every minute of it.
nitch*: In addition to those great (non-financial) sponsorships with the big boys, you’re driving some revenue through advertising on the podcast from SportsMemorabilia.com and Ice Hot Hockey. How did those deals come about?
Justin – Ice Hot Hockey approached the show very early on. They had seen the show and loved the idea and thought that it was a great way to reach their audience. Each episode the promote a featured card that they available to buy, most of the times it geared towards current events, like the Stanley Cup playoffs, or World Juniors, it is a great relationship that should continue on
SportsMemorabilia.com is through Google Affiliates, seemed the most appropriate for our site.
nitch*: It’s great that you’re so early into your growth and already have multiple revenue streams. Are you able to make some money off the podcast as a result? As your audience grows and the value of these deals increases, would you hope to make The Hockey Card Show a full-time gig?
Justin: I wouldn’t say make money. We have received money which goes right back into the show for equipment, cards, promo items. We are always looking to make the show better, small tweaks that we hope the viewers will appreciate, my list of upgrades is pretty long
Darrin : It would be pretty amazing to do this full time, would really just be icing on the cake. We hope that with the ground work and connections we are making that we can land a nice sponsorship. It’s about getting the word out and connecting, whether it’s through wearing the show’s shirt or giving out business cards.
nitch*: Great points about both re-investing in the show to improve it, and also connecting. You mentioned earlier, connecting with Molson over twitter, which is a great indicator of the value of that platform to making connections when building a brand. Can you talk a little more about your strategies on social platforms to market yourselves and engage with your audience? How big of a role have they played in building your audience?
Justin : MASSIVE… it is the easiest way to get word out about what you are doing, and more importantly it is a great way to find people that have your same interest. No one is going to try to push football on a hockey guy, Facebook and Twitter give you the ability to communicate with very specific people. I am very active on my Twitter account and think it’s important to be as real as you can on there, no one will pay attention to you if all you do it pump your show, it’s all about interacting.
Darrin : They are both great opportunities to reach out to a vast amount of people. Facebook is a great way to update a mass amount of people all at once when there is a new show, or if something special is going on. It is nice with Facebook too because you can include so many people with just a click.
nitch*: What other forms of marketing do you supplement those with? What sorts of grassroots strategies have you implemented?
Justin: When Darrin joined the show he brought a great viewership over too. Probably the biggest thing is just getting into the mix with the hockey community. It is something that comes easy to both Darrin and I, these sites just give you access to an already primed group of people that are interested in your topic.
As far as “pounding the pavement” both Darrin and I have business cards made up with the show info on them and twitter accounts. Just something to give out if interest is shown. I also often carry around packs of old cards with labels slapped on them with the show address on them. Again something fun to give out cause who doesn’t like free stuff right? Plus this gets the conversation going with people you meet.
We have been featured in our local paper which was very cool and a great way to get the message out to a massive amount of people. We have been fortunate to work with Molson, McDonalds, and Upper Deck as well which is a great platform to reach out to new viewers and new companies.
Darrin: It is pretty wild how far it reaches too, because people pass it on and then they pass it on too. Get this, I was playing ball in Dorchester on the weekend and a guy says to me…”hey are you that Dink guy from The Hockey Card Show” (helped I have Dink on the back of my ball shirt) but still. This guy was from St. Thomas and I had never met him in my life.
nitch*: Love the shout-out to St Thomas (my hometown)! Let’s talk a little about the format of your content: two guys, sitting in a basement, drinking beers (and sometimes shots) on a couch. I like how you’re clearly not trying to reinvent the wheel to connect with the audience- can you talk a little about what made you steer clear of sets and other gimmicks?
Justin : After seeing the original idea video from Gary it got me thinking. Growing up every Saturday me and my friends would all hang out in someone’s basement and watch hockey. For that night hockey was the topic, who sucked, who was amazing, who would win the cup…I really wanted the show to have that feel of sitting around with your friends having a beer and talking hockey; the couch was an easy pick.
Darrin : It also serves as a very laid back and informal setting, not so serious and scripted. We hit record on the camera and let loose. Sometimes a set can feel little cold and uninviting, we want you to crack a beer too and yell at us if you really want to.
nitch*: Great stuff guys! One last fun one for the road – what are both your most valuable and most prized (for reasons other than money) hockey cards?
Justin: One of my favorite cards is a signed Bobby Hull card. I actually never saw or at least remember watching Bobby Hull play, but his card is one of my favorites. He was at our local mall for a card show and was signing cards, that day I hit up a booth and bought a cool looking card for $5, I was excited to meet a real player and get his signature. After he signed it I slid it in a protective cover. Later in the day while still walking around I found the very same card I just got signed being sold by another vendor, only this vendor only wanted $1 for it.
Darrin: For me, it is a collection of Gretzky cards I have. A great wack of cards from his first 4 or 5 years in Edmonton. Everything but his rookie Obviously they are worth something, but it is the sentimental value of my favorite player of all time (easy choice) and the bringing me back to my collecting days as a young Dinkster when I pull them out and look at them.
nitch*: For me, it’s the Gretzky’s as well Darrin – there’s a draw at my parents house that I still hold hope will one day fund my retirement!
The nitch* Analysis: The Hockey Card Show seems to be doing everything right. The hockey card market isn’t what it was in the 80s, but it’s a topic that resonates with guys of all ages – so there is astounding room for growth. In growing that audience, they engage with their fans on multiple platforms(even engaging in some friendly wagering with twitterati), they crank out regular shows during the hockey season, they’ve aligned themselves with a strong mentor in Gary Vaynerchuck, and have even gotten some corporate sponsors to take notice.
As is always the case when building a niche audience, slow and steady wins the race, but with time and continued passion (and extreme patience), they can build their audience and grow those relationships with sponsors, giving them opportunities grow revenues and to spin off into other forms of media and merchandizing.
Best of luck guys – we’ll see you back on the couch this fall!
If you have any thoughts on the Hockey Card Show, or any advice or comments for Justin and Darrin, leave a comment below: