But when Prudential Center president Hugh Weber and Devils’ CEO Scott O’Neil sell sponsorships and luxury suites to what they feel is an untapped New Jersey business community, they first push what they call the story that hasn’t been told:
It’s a great place to do business.
“You’re going to have an incredible value to capture 25 clients for four hours, to sit them in front of a pretty exciting atmosphere, and get great service,” Weber said.
It’s an environment, he said, “where you’re able to walk down the hallway and meet someone who could be a client.”
“This isn’t about walking into your condo and enjoying that little piece of earth,” Weber said. “We want to create a club atmosphere, so that for these people, it’s a membership that you have by being a part of this building that gets you special privileges.”
Weber and O’Neil came aboard in August, when the team and arena were sold to Josh Harris and David Blitzer.
Filling suites (reportedly, roughly 20 of them were unsold at the time of the sale) and increasing sponsorships became a top priority — one that called for “dramatically” increasing the sales and marketing staffs by “50 or 60” people.
Such an increase in personnel, O’Neil said, enables them to do the job right.
“When you have that kind of reach, that’s when you can actually get out and have conversations that we think really matter,” he said.
The goal, O’Neil said, is to understand a firm’s business objectives, rather than simply putting their name on a sign.
“Those are the kinds of conversations that create partnerships, as opposed to sponsorships,” he said.
The Devils would not disclose how many suites had been sold in the less than two months they had before last Friday’s home opener.
Industry experts, however, feel they are on the right track long term.
Frank Vuono, co-founder of 16W Marketing, a Rutherford-based sports marketing firm, already has seen a change. He said the team has been smart to engage the trove of businesses beyond the Brick City, something it hasn’t been as aggressive in doing in the past.
“You have to expand the concentric circles, so you have to go to the next tier of folks if you want to sell suites and you want corporations involved with your organization,” Vuono said. “And sometimes you have to go into new areas.”
He added that the Devils “have people in place now who know how to do this, so you’ll see that change pretty rapidly.”
O’Neil and Weber are certainly not starting from scratch. They have a popular arena that’s only six years old, located in the heart of New Jersey’s biggest city, and a team that’s been one of the most successful franchises in any sport over the past 20 years
That being said, they are still tasked with rejuvenating a Devils’ franchise that’s been known as much for its financial woes in recent years as it has for its play on the ice.