‘Being 100-point ready’: How Devils business team was ready for big year, too

Years of work building fan base helped team set records in every revenue category

New Jersey Devils and Prudential Center President Jake Reynolds calls the 2022-23 season a perfect scenario in which everything on the ice and off the ice came together.

A young and exciting team helped the Devils set franchise records for wins (52) and points (112) — and helped the business team at Prudential Center establish organizational records across every major revenue vertical: from ticketing to sponsorship to premium seat sales to food and beverage.

Like the team on the ice, which set a league record for the highest year-to-year increase in points after a number of lean years, the work on the business side is far more than a one-year effort.

The effort didn’t happen by chance. And it didn’t happen overnight.

“Over the course of the last several years, we’ve had this phrase, ‘Being 100-point ready,’” Reynolds said. “It’s one of things we talked about a lot internally. We wanted to make sure that we were prepared on the business side to capitalize on that when this team turned the corner on the ice.”

Brian Norman, the team’s senior vice president, ticket sales and premium hospitality, has been a key in that preparation since arriving in the middle of the 2016-17 season.

Connecting with the fans — and ensuring they have extraordinary experiences — has been key since Day One, he said.

“We were going through the building process, and we knew, because we’re following this team every day, what was growing,” he said. “But, at the same time, we knew that when our fans come out, they want to experience wins, they want to experience a fantastic Prudential Center, they want to see progress.

“So, as the group that was curating our membership experience, we knew that we had to build a fully-fledged season ticket member platform that was providing our fans additional opportunities to get closer to the team.”

There were meet-and-greets, autograph sessions, special rewards and unique merchandise offers.

“We’ve talked a lot as an organization that there are no shortcuts to the top, only to the middle,” Norman said.

Putting in the work paid off.

When the Devils qualified for just their second postseason since 2012 and put playoff tickets on sale, they were quickly gobbled up by a season-ticket base that had a 99% renewal rate — and newcomers to that base.

The team already has added approximately 1,500 new full-season ticket holders — by far, the tops in the league.

Those with season-tickets (full or partial) received the first chance at playoff tickets and quickly grabbed more than 80% of the building’s capacity. The rest of the seats went quickly to the general public.

The playoffs start this week as the team begins a best-of-seven series with the rival New York Rangers on Tuesday.

The atmosphere assuredly will be raucous — and figures to be a first taste of what is coming for the franchise. With the youngest team in the league, the opportunities to sell a top-level product figure to be around for years to come, Reynolds said.

“One of the most exciting pieces when you look at this is that this is Year One and Step One in what will be a decade-plus run in competition for a Stanley Cup championship,” he said.

“We have the youngest team in the NHL that (finished) third in the league in terms of points. And you have an incredible prospect pipeline coming up behind it.”

It’s a dream scenario for sales and marketing teams, Reynolds said.

“There’s this old adage within sports that you’re selling one of two things: You’re selling hope, or you’re selling championships,” he said. “We are in that sphere where we are selling both. We have hope for the next 10 years — and we have a team on the ice that is built and has shown that they can compete for a Stanley Cup.”