Sports, Catfish, and Country Music

Zach Jones

As Nashville prepares to host its first major sports championship event ever, we know two things: 1) the national sports and sports business audience will set eyes on a galvanized Nashville fan base for the first time and 2) someone is going to throw a catfish on the ice during Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final in Bridgestone Arena. Mark it down.

At first, you may not understand the combined power of those certainties but it’s huge for Nashville. The city already has the Preds and Titans, Memphis has the Grizzlies but Tennessee doesn’t have an MLB or MLS team. Both leagues are currently considering expansion. Without getting into the details of landing an MLB or MLS team, note that the attention surrounding the Stanley Cup gives the city a chance to show sports business brass that it can support more professional clubs.

The Country Music Capital of the World is all-in on the Preds and country music stars singing the national anthem before games has become an expectation, along with throwing catfish on the ice. Here’s a look at the history of the catfish tradition dating back to 2002. Overall, it’s pretty similar to the Detroit Red Wings’ “Legend of the Octopus” but it will be interesting to see how the NHL handles it. In 1996, they refused to broadcast Detroit fans throwing octopi on the ice. Will it be different in Nashville? It should be. If there’s one thing Nashville knows how to do, it is entertain, a component crucial to sporting events trying to attract spectators in a world where it’s easier for fans to tune in from home.

Just look at the other big event coming to Nashville next week, CMA Fest. The country stars performing at the festival are the same ones bringing extra entertainment value to the Preds’ playoff games by singing the national anthem, not to mention getting fans in the door on time so they spend longer in-venue, leading to increased merchandise and concession revenue.

Meanwhile, First Tennessee Park, home of the Nashville Sounds, is set to host their inaugural concert on September 29, 2017. The Kings of Leon show will provide the stadium execs a firsthand look at the atmosphere and musical sound quality the park can offer. If it goes well, it won’t be long before the ballpark starts booking acts with eyes on joining Ascend Amphitheater as one of the premiere outdoor music venues in Nashville.

So how does that impact Marbaloo and me?

Let’s bring it back to the catfish angle here. After Game 1, a media storm rolled in around the tradition, the guy who threw it aka Catfish Jake, and if country music superstar Carrie Underwood might throw the next one during Game 2 in Pittsburgh. In fact, local sports media figure and Catfish Jake’s pro bono legal defense Clay Travis offered up $10K to charity if Carrie made it happen. ORCA Coolers, Logo Brands, PGA Tour Pro Brandt Snedeker, ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit, Bobby Bones, and the NBA’s Brandan Wright all got in on the act via Twitter. They each matched Clay’s offer of $10K to charity if the woman married to the Preds’ captain threw a catfish onto the ice in Pittsburgh. What a great way to organically engage with your market! That’s smart, creative activation. How many other companies miss opportunities like this because they just don’t see them? ORCA Coolers’ tweet received 200 more “likes” than anything they’ve posted in two months; their next most popular tweet also involved the Preds.

What I’m getting at is that the general sports audience is one that overlaps with country music artists and fans. The opportunities that arise for artists and brands through sponsorship, creative activation, television, radio, and press surrounding sports are abundant and even more are on the horizon. Sports teams and organizations continue to focus on improving the live experience for fans to compete with at-home viewing options. Marbaloo has worked hard to get our clients involved in the action surrounding the Nashville Predators’ run at the Stanley Cup and find other sport and lifestyle angles outside of standard music coverage. It’s something we emphasize and it helps create extra looks for our clients that theywouldn’t get otherwise, helping them build their brand.

I’m looking forward to finding more opportunities to connect these dots to music and our clients through the Predators, Nashville Sounds and First Tennessee Park, and many others. My only other two hopes in the near future are for are a Mike Fisher/Carrie Underwood national anthem duet and four wins from my hometown team. Go Preds!