Visual & Perceived Signals – San Jose Sharks

Prequel: Preparation

Sweaty palms and restless legs can be feelings invoked by talented curators. Although far from simple, accomplishing this response can solidify our feelings about the experience we have towards a brand. As a lifetime sport enthusiast and a business education background, exploring the organizations that bring the world so much passion is intriguing. I recently traveled to San Jose for a Sharks hockey game. Although I watched a disappointing loss, the experience was far from disappointing. From the planning and preparation to the in game experience, the San Jose Sharks organization provided exemplary entertainment which has me yearning for more.

The most complicated aspect for most journeys begins with coordinating the trip. Fortunately, there are only a couple simple steps here. I first researched the schedule to find a home game which fell on a Saturday. These will be more expensive than weekday games, but potentially have a larger audience and more energy. It is also wise to research their opponents and the context of the game if it is at all possible. My choice was to see the Anaheim Ducks, a conference foe with a playoff bound record, in a time where both teams could be jockeying for playoff positioning.

Tickets can be purchased in a number of ways, but I suggest using the NHL ticket exchange or the regular Ticketmaster site (just be prepared for the exuberant service charges). I have purchased tickets on other sites such as Craigslist, but take extra safety measures if you do such as ensuring your tickets are scanned close to when the doors open to ensure duplicates aren’t used. In choosing a ticket, there are a few things to be aware of. First, the Sharks shoot at the goal in front of sections 107 and 109 two times. Second, this is extremely different from outdoor sports like football or baseball. The Arena is smaller and built up instead of out. Therefore, the section you choose will not inhibit your view, but it does change the viewing experience. Being against the glass makes it difficult to see the opposite end of the ice, but that does not mean they are ‘better’ seats than the second tier. Personally, I prefer to be up and back in order to be fully immersed in the experience and to better see the development of play.

There are two hotels I’d highly recommend for attending a hockey game. Both the De Anza Hotel and the Arena Hotel are literally a 10 minute leisurely walk away from the game. The De Anza is the more modern of the two with a snack room available from 10pm to 5am and an iconic design. The Arena sacrifices luxury for the sake of convenience. It is less expensive, has recently renovated rooms with slightly rundown furniture, and a free continental breakfast every morning. Either of these options puts you in prime position for an easy enjoyable experience. If you have time, head to the SAP Arena to check out the Sharks Store and all their unique merchandise. The store will typically be open all afternoon, and close before 5pm to reopen for the game at night. Don’t waste your time shopping during the game. Knock it out in the buildup.

With tickets and a room, the rest is subject to interpretation. My personal favorite activity is to visit Kukar’s House of Pizza a couple hours before the game. A trip to San Jose is not complete without their linguica jalapeno pizza fragrance filling my hotel room. They are only a roughly ten minute drive from either of the above listed hotels. I advise you order double in order to ensure you have some after the game, otherwise it may be a struggle to find something you want nearby. With pizza in hand, grab a bottle of rum or a case of beer and head for the room to begin preparation.

San Jose Sharks Brand Presentation

The arena is kept near 60 degrees Fahrenheit, which is essential to know for the cold sensitive. Most people wear hockey jerseys (sweaters), but the arena fills with people which can generate more warmth. This is a great feature that the team is able to offer its’ fans. There are plenty of souvenirs and food vendors to peruse, so I like to get into the arena as soon as the doors open. Find your seats and orient yourself to the surroundings for the night. The Sharks, as well as most other organizations, have something for anyone who finds themselves at one of their games. They are developing an ever widening fan base through refreshing inclusion which is invigorating to see. From their business standpoint, it makes sense to treat people with equality and they do well by reaching out to those who don’t usually get the offer to join the community.

This brings me to the San Jose Sharks organization and their ability to provide an excellent consumer experience. Upon arrival, the energy is electric and seems almost other worldly. The stage is set before you and the performance of the team is ALMOST unimportant. The immediate reaction after finding our seats I caught on Snapchat displays the mood the organization sets for game night.

They maintain a clean and well maintained arena which all can enjoy. There are numerous employees wearing distinguished blue coats looking to assist anyone and anything in need. Prices for goods at the game are inflated, but that has come to be expected for any event. There is great comfort to be had in knowing all that the organization has put into ensuring the experience is a good one.

Before the game started, there was an announcement about epilepsy awareness as well as a family impacted by it on the jumbo-tron. Spreading knowledge and showing support for those who are in need of it is an admirable trait, to say the least. I tend to spend more freely with a brand which I know has the same propensity to help others as I do. It was a very valuable addition to my perception of the sport, the brand, and the night to see the organization supporting epilepsy awareness. They use their platform and influence to reach out and make a difference.

The beginning of the game and the teams’ introduction shows how the Sharks are not simply out to play a game. The audience is being entertained, and a great amount of theatrics are incorporated to cut out any of the dull parts. They use various techniques to get you invested in the experience and make a lifetime fan out of you. The action and scoring coincide with choice audio effects to sink the hooks of fandom deep into the tissue of the audience.

In the grand scheme, a single fan at a single game does not make a grand difference to the organization. Everyone who goes is pretty much subject to the same treatment and the same experience (with the exception of your seat choice). Despite this, I feel as though everyone’s experience at the game is completely unique and all inclusive. They provide a raw and organic form of entertainment that is unrivaled. The few factors that are controllable are enriched with enthusiasm and care which produce a rich sentiment in the minds of the consumers. I applaud the San Jose Sharks organization for the excellent execution, for although the team lost the game they gained 4 lifelong devotees.

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Photo Credit: Score Stream, CA Fire Foundation