Even though the NHL has experienced three lockouts since 1994, you can bet that hockey fans will always be tuning in when the quest for the Stanley Cup begins. Blood, sweat, and beards have a lot to do with why fans always check in to see head-to-head battles between the league’s biggest superstars, but the NHL’s creative team is also doing its part to sell its game.

Nostalgia, good old blue-collar values and sportsmanship do more to sell the game than a SportsCenter recap ever could. That’s because they’re not lies about the game, like the idea that a fight will break out during every period. The NHL’s marketing sends a simple message: truth sells.

What If You Aren’t There to See It?

Perhaps the NHL’s best campaign was History Will Be Made, which won three Sports Media Marketing Awards for its 2010 campaign. The formula is simple: capture a historic moment, rewind it, and add a “What if?”

But the point of the campaign wasn’t to talk about what might have changed if the result had been different. These commercials are really asking the viewers a simple question: “What if you aren’t in front of your television when the next big thing happens?”

What if you, the fan, aren’t there to watch a random Game 2 divisional playoff series game involving teams from a completely different country than your own? Because those games are important, you never know what might happen.

Maybe you’ll miss a 5-0 blowout, or you could miss a John Tavares neutral zone gaffe that turns into a 4OT goal for Alex Ovechkin. What you do know, though, is that you’ll miss “the next big thing” if you’re watching the NBA playoffs instead.

You’ll miss history when it’s made, and that history won’t be your own. That’s a memory you could have that’ll be nothing more to you than a Twitter trend.

Because It’s The Blue-Collar Values We Hold Dear

Values sell just as well as history. Hockey players risk death to be on the ice. They love to play the game, they work with relentless fury, and they want to win. Those qualities are bound to attract an audience that knows about them.

“Because Broadway has never been so blue-collar” captures the idea perfectly – these on-ice gladiators earn what they deserve and fight for every inch of on the ice. Sure, fancy smansy goals from dazzling danglers are fun. But when athletes from Texas to Boston care more about the team than broken legs, it makes fans buy into the idea that these players embody the blue collar ideas of sacrifice and teamwork.

A Handshake Is Worth a Thousand Words

Fans will remember the team that won, but only the losers will remember a painful defeat in a few years. It would have been easy for Anze Kopitar to gloat in front of Henrik Lundqvist in 2014, but he didn’t. Sportsmanship rules, and the NHL knows how to package it.

Maybe it’s because respect and sportsmanship can be missed in the day-to-day lives of fans, but the NHL figured out the handshake line really tapped into something deep inside its fanbase.

And the Next Hockey Marketing Campaign Is…

Whether the next campaign will feature inspirational individual efforts or the playoff beard tradition, you can be sure the NHL’s next campaign will tap into something about the game that fans love and won’t be able to resist: the truth about why they loved the product in the first place.

That’s the best point to take away from the NHL’s marketing campaigns – focusing on why your customer base loves, or would love, your product reinforces brand loyalty, and keeps them coming back for more. The NHL has a keen understanding of its audience’s motivations and desire for honesty, work ethic, and sacrifice. If you can develop a similar understanding of your customer base, it’ll go a long way.