Pegula a Public Relations Coup for Buffalo and the Sabres

by Jason Mollica on March 2, 2011

The loud roar you heard last week came from Buffalo Sabres fans shouting their approval of the team’s new owner, Terry Pegula. It’s been a great story. Pegula became a fan of the team in the mid-70s, during the Sabres run to the Stanley Cup final. Since then, he’s been a blue-and-gold backer. That, in part, is what has endeared him to the fan base and the area. Terry Pegula is “one of us.”

In sports, we look for something tangible that can draw us to a team. It may be a player or a number of players. It could be that your parents rooted for the team. In this case, the Sabres have a fan in the owner’s suite.  It’s the ultimate situation, in sports and in public relations.

Think about your last PR plan. You most likely built in a hard “sell” of  a brand or idea to clients and customers. In the case of Pegula, the sell was subtle and understated. The story of his interest in buying the team started just a few months ago and built to a crescendo in late January. By then, fans were in a tizzy.

However, during the whole process, Pegula never said a word. The fans were the ones that championed him. By the time he spoke at the introductory news conference, Pegula was already a winner.

Pegula used words like winning Stanley “Cups” and “no financial mandates” on the Sabres hockey operations staff.  That was music to the ears of a hockey mad area. More importantly, he has provided a clear PR message to Sabres stakeholders – it’s no stroke of luck that this PR campaign fell into place that easily.

His ownership of the team is also a boon for Buffalo and Western New York. We often get a bad rap in these parts for our winter weather. Pegula now lives in Florida, but would move back to the area if not for one of his daughter’s aspirations of being a tennis pro.

“We enjoyed living in Orchard Park. I enjoyed shoveling my roof off six times during the winter,” Pegula said at his introductory news conference on February 22. You don’t hear much talk like that.

Pegula was open, honest, and quite frank this week. Those are all qualities you look for in a CEO and chief public relations spokesperson. Those are qualities that Buffalo will certainly continue to embrace … especially if they bring Lord Stanley’s Cup home a few times.