01/14/2010 10:55 AM - From chicagoblackhawks.com: (link)
Chicago Blackhawks Team President John McDonough announced today the contract extension of Senior Vice President of Business Operations Jay Blunk.
“Jay deserves a tremendous amount of credit for what has gone on with the Blackhawks business operations over the past two years,” McDonough said. “He has brought that area to a higher level and will continue to use his innovative and aggressive style to make us better and stronger. I am proud to have the opportunity to work with Jay as we continue to build an elite organization.”
Blunk is currently in his third season with the Blackhawks after spending the previous 22 years in the front office of the Chicago Cubs. He has engineered broad changes to the business landscape of the Blackhawks, adopting the general business philosophy of fan accessibility and bold, innovative strategies. In recognition of the teams’ achievements, the Blackhawks earned a nomination for SportsBusiness Journal’s 2009 Professional Sports Team of the Year and are currently being considered for a nomination for the upcoming 2010 awards.
Under Blunk’s business leadership, the Blackhawks have entertained 76 consecutive capacity crowds, the franchise’s season ticket base has risen to more than 14,000 and merchandise sales have increased by 317 percent. The Blackhawks became one of professional sports’ biggest success stories, in what Forbes.com dubbed “arguably the most remarkable turnaround in the history of sports in the United States.” In 2008-09, the Blackhawks drew more than 1 million fans (1,052,261) for the first time in franchise history, set a league record by attracting an average of 21,783 fans to their 40 United Center contest and surpassed the franchise regular-season attendance record of 835,972.
Blunk also worked in partnership with Blackhawks president John McDonough, Chicago Cubs officials and NHL officials to bring the NHL Winter Classic 2009 to Wrigley Field, an event which matched up the Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings in front of 40,818 fans on January 1, 2009. The television broadcast of the game drew an 11.8 overnight rating and a 21 share on NBC 5 in Chicago and 4.4 million U.S. viewers overall, making it the most-watched NHL game in 34 years, according to Nielsen Media Research.
In his initial months with the Blackhawks, Blunk worked to secure the radio broadcast rights with new broadcast partner WGN News/Talk 720, in addition to working with the Hawks’ marketing department in hiring Ogilvy as the team’s new advertising agency and creating the Blackhawks Heritage Series, which honored Blackhawks greats throughout the season, achieving the overall business goal of building a bridge to the heritage of the franchise. Blunk also led sweeping changes across the Blackhawks’ media channels, including the development of Blackhawks TV, the redesign of the Blackhawks’ publications and chicagoblackhawks.com.
Blunk has overseen new concepts such as the Blackhawks Training Camp Festival, which includes the “Mad Dash to Madison” run and skate, 3-on-3 street hockey tournament and behind-the-scenes look at a Hawks practice. Blunk also developed first-of-their-kind cross-promotional partnerships with both the Cubs and Chicago White Sox, as well as a wealth of other civic organizations, which built the foundation for a 12-month-a-year marketing strategy.
A graduate of Illinois State University, Blunk held several marketing, sales, branding, promotions and advertising positions while with the Cubs (1986-2008), the last of which was vice president in charge of marketing and broadcasting. He was responsible for the development of a wealth of promotional events over his more than two decades at Wrigley Field. Blunk was also a member of the Cubs organization when they drew over three million fans every season since 2003, setting the team’s all-time record for attendance in 2007. Blunk serves on the Board of Directors for Chicago Blackhawk Charities, which supports programs and institutions throughout Illinois that work towards creating a better tomorrow for the youth of today.