The city of Columbus, Ohio was a college football town that had always struggled to support professional sports franchises. It was a town where Ohio State University reigned supreme, and everything else seemed less important – a town of jaded fans, where almost all other minor league franchises had failed. That was until 1991, when the Columbus Chill, a minor-league hockey team, arrived. Using an in-your-face marketing campaign and on-ice shenanigans, the Chill became the talk of the city and gained a religious local fan base. Based in part on the success of the Chill from 1991–99, the city of Columbus was awarded an NHL expansion franchise in June 1997, less than six years after the Chill was announced.
The Chill reinvigorated fans’ passion through edgy and innovative marketing – a no-holds-barred strategy developed by a team of young sports marketing professionals with attitude, who had no hesitation joking about anyone from the toothless goon in the front row to your sister and your mother. The public, many of whom held no true allegiance to OSU and were looking for a team of their own, were drawn back over and over again by the authentic and refreshing tactics of the Chill. The Chill was eventually able to turn an Ohio State-centric town held back by political backstabbing and small-minded thinkers into a major-league city by giving the people something they didn’t know they wanted. This breakdown of OSU’s stranglehold over local sports caught the attention of the national press, with The Wall Street Journal and ABC World News Sunday taking notice just a few months after the first home game.
Follow this wild ride through the eyes of team president and general manager David Paitson, from the early formation of the team through the decision to rattle the status quo by going to the edge and beyond with a marketing and promotional plan that was both edgy and controversial. Facing long odds in a city with a laundry list of failed franchises, Chill Factor is the story of a minor-league hockey team whose off-the-wall marketing and keen vision allowed it to achieve dreams never before thought possible.
About the Authors
David Paitson was the president and general manager of the Columbus Chill from 1991–98 and a career sports business executive. Paitson has worked in public relations and marketing capacities with the Indiana Pacers (NBA), vice president marketing and vice president ticket sales for the Columbus Blue Jackets (NHL) and as president of the Columbus Destroyers (AFL). He currently works as associate athletic director at Sam Houston State University. He and his wife, Lauren, currently reside in Montgomery, Texas.
Craig Merz, a lifelong resident of Columbus, has witnessed the city’s evolving sports scene from the stands and the press box, including a quarter century of reporting for the Columbus Dispatch. He has covered the NHL’s Stanley Cup Final, All-Star Game and Entry Draft and the NCAA Frozen Four. Merz currently is a freelance writer for NHL.com, the Associated Press, Buckeye Sports Bulletin and The Sports Exchange, among others.
Chill Factor will be available at all major retailers.