Five political parties, 136 committee members and 56.6 per cent of Zürich residents: the ZSC Lions persuaded voters with their project for their own ice hockey stadium. The campaign for votes was created by the Zürich-based communications agency Serviceplan Public Relations Suisse.
ZLE Betriebs AG, the umbrella organisation for the ZSC Lions, has been planning to build the club’s own ice hockey stadium since 2009. In 2015, after extensive site evaluation research, an architectural competition and the preparation of preliminary drawings, plans and blueprints, an important step was taken: the project was to be put forward for approval, first by the city authorities and then by the people. Having put in place a watertight business plan and excellent construction plans, ZLE Betriebs AG now needed to persuasively communicate the arguments for a new stadium and to mobilise backers. The focus was therefore on communication – and this is where the Zürich-based agency Serviceplan Public Relations Suisse came in.
The communication strategy, broken down into the four phases “city council”, “committee”, “local council” and “people”, was tailored to the specific requirements of the respective institutions and players. The approval secured from the municipal council on 15 June 2016 was also the signal to begin mobilising public support ahead of the vote on 25 September 2016.
The website www.eishockeyarena.ch was built as a hub for the vote. This contained comprehensive information about the project, the site, financing, explanatory films and messages from key players such as Peter Zahner, CEO of the ZSC Lions, and the team captain Mathias Seger. Questions could be asked and opinions given using a feedback form on the website while a range of material was available for downloading. Additional information was disseminated via the newsletters of the ZSC Lions and all other sports clubs in Zürich, on flyers posted to every household in the city and in a 12-page special supplement in four neighbourhood newspapers.
These actions were accompanied by an advertisement and billboard campaign, social media posts, classic media work and stall actions outside six branches of Migros in Zürich, where the ZSC Lions handed out important information on the vote alongside leading politicians from the neighbourhood. In total more than 80 different communication activities took place over a three-month period, all of which dovetailed perfectly.
A distinctive feature of the vote campaign was the support and recognition offered by major figures. As well as the four city councillors Daniel Leupi, Gerold Lauber, André Odermatt and Filippo Leutenegger, who sat on the project steering committee, the project also secured the backing of five parties spanning the complete political spectrum: the SVP, the FDP, the CVP, the GLP and the SP. The specially created “Pro Ice Hockey Stadium Committee” included 136 figures from the worlds of politics, sport, business, gastronomy, the media and entertainment. Throughout the process communication, activities sought to persuade through facts and positive statements. Counterarguments and opposite positions were taken into account and addressed while partners were actively involved, for the vote could not be won without reaching beyond the ZSC Lions community and also achieving widespread support among those with less passion for or no interest in sport. Accordingly, the appeal was: “You are a key player too. Every vote counts”.
After the positive result at the ballot box, the project is now moving into the construction planning stage including the securing of planning permission. Work on the stadium is expected to get underway in 2019, with the ZSC Lions taking to the ice in their own stadium for the first time in the 2022/23 ice hockey season.