The Boston Bruins postseason is fast approaching, but in local business circles, the playoffs might as well be called schmooze season. As the hockey team tries to win the Stanley Cup, companies will try to win new accounts while entertaining prospective clients at TD Garden.
Now, the arena is making a new effort to grease the skids with the launch of the TD Garden Business Network, an exclusive social media club designed to get corporate leaders shaking hands and discussing deals during Garden events.
“Especially in the playoffs, you walk through those Premium Club areas and it is truly the who’s who of Boston,” said TD Garden President Amy Latimer. “I think a lot of networking happens organically, but this is giving people another opportunity to connect.”
The TD Garden Business Network is a private group within the professional networking website LinkedIn. Would-be members must be invited or ask to join, with Garden executives deciding who merits inclusion. Senior-level employees of Garden sponsors and Premium Club members were the first to receive invitations Thursday, but other business leaders are eligible as well.
The network will be integrated with a new TD Garden mobile app, whose other features include interactive concourse maps and directions to nearby restaurants. Business network members running the app will be detected automatically when they enter the arena, using the location services on their smartphones. They will then be able to see a list of all the other network members in the building, including people they have never met.
This list will open the door to meetings that likely would not happen otherwise, Latimer said. Executives who go to the Garden for games and concerts chat with the people in their suites and may strike up conversations with other folks they bump into by chance, but they often miss opportunities to make potentially valuable contacts with people sitting just a few doors away.
Using the app, one director can make an electronic introduction to another, and offer to grab a beer during the next intermission.
To make in-person follow-ups even easier, the Garden will use breaks in game action to host brief networking events in the new LinkedIn Lounge, a set of sofas and high-tops that can be moved to various locations in the Premium Club and serve as meeting hubs.
Most features of the TD Garden app will be available to all fans, including a digital box office for all arena events and a virtual pro shop for ordering team swag. Access to business network attendance lists and events, however, will be restricted to members.
Active promotion of mobile device use during Garden events represents a radical change for the arena, which only five years ago ran a marketing campaign to get fans off their phones. A video aired on the Garden big screen at the time showed the Bruins’ bear mascot chasing a man with a cell phone in an attempt to scare him into compliance.
Jen Compton, the Garden’s vice president for marketing, recalled playing the old video during a recent staff meeting to emphasize how dramatically things have changed.
“We still don’t want to distract from the game,” Compton said. “But now we see mobile as a tool that can enhance the fan experience.”