TAMPA—A few years ago, when he first moved to the city, Kevin Preast noticed his barista wearing a Lightning hat. Preast asked if he was a fan.
The response: No, it’s a cool hat.
That’s what the Lightning senior vice president of event management wants to achieve with the new line of apparel accompanying the third jersey debuted Thursday night.
Preast wants to see someone in the new gear next time he goes to Armature Works or Sparkman Wharf.
“People are wearing our mark as a beacon of the Tampa Bay community, even if they aren’t a Tampa Bay Lightning fan,” he said at a launch event. “Very few marks represent a city so well. If you’ve seen the skyline in the middle of the summer with the lightning lighting it up, it really speaks to the Tampa Bay community.”
He pointed to the Yankees’ interlocking NY, the Dodgers’ similar LA, the Red Sox’ B, and the Braves’ A as some others that stand alone even without their teams. The Eagles’ logo has become another, without literally standing for the city as the others’ initials do.
The Lightning hopes for something similar from its new lifestyle line, which features the typical clothing and hats as well as drink tumblers, pop sockets and even a skateboard, all in shades of black and grey.
The line intends to reach out to a younger demographic, particularly the under-30 fans, with a trendy jersey and attire for outside of the game.
“When people put on their blue and white jerseys, they’re ready to go and be in pure fan zone,” Preast said. “This line gives them the opportunity to wear it to a cookout or wear it to a golf course and still fly the flag, but do it in a more casual way.”
In addition to adidas, the main partner and the one most publicized in the launch, the Lightning is also working with Lululemon, Columbia, Oakley and more on the alternate jersey line.
The process started two years ago with a fan survey. Overwhelmingly, the responses requested a black jersey with gray and/or silver. So that became the obvious starting point.
Over the next year and a half, the Lightning’s marketing and retail teams worked with the NHL and adidas on the design of the jersey and lifestyle line. They took the elements of the third jersey system, in particular the sublimation gradient effect, and worked them into athleisure and other items.
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The details, on both the jersey and the other gear, carry better up close. The bolt logo on the chest of the jersey has an almost iridescent effect to evoke the look of lightning flashing in the night sky, but it gets lost from afar.
“To me, one of the most unique things about this system is the closer you get to it or the further away, your vantage point changes,” chief marketing and revenue officer Jarrod Dillon said. “It almost looks like a different jersey depending on where you are, which we thought was pretty unique.”
The Lightning did its best to keep the jersey under wraps, but it did leak through the nhl.com’s international store back in November. The team wanted an element of surprise, a chance to #DisrupttheNight as the hashtag says.
The team didn’t want to overlap with adidas’ all-star jersey announcement and had some restrictions from the NHL. Unveiling jerseys that will be worn on Saturdays on a Thursday gave the Lightning a chance to draw the excitement out over a couple of days.
And there was excitement.
On a typical night, the Lightning sells maybe 80 jerseys; on a good night, maybe 100. On Thursday, it sold over 500.
Jon Cooper and Andrei Vasilevskiy put in their requests for new hats on Friday.
But what about the numbers? Fans watching Thursday’s game from home reported poor legibility of the numbers (dark grey, with a light grey border on the black background).
“We did our due diligence on TV testing,” Dillon said. “Not anything that had worried us previously. Last night, and getting some of the feedback overnight, it sounds like that’s something we need to take a look at.”
For now, the numbers are what they are and Dillon isn’t sure what can be changed, but it’s something they’ll look into.