Sens could be latest to sex-up game presentation — and it works

By Scott Petersen

Sex sells: It sells beer, cars and clothes among other things.

Put enough beautiful women in a commercial and you could probably sell a Macintosh to Bill Gates.

It’s Marketing 101 and it can work wonders for almost any floundering ad campaign.

Take equal parts flesh and beauty, add a sprinkle of conveniently placed clothing, then stand it next to an otherwise bland item and you have a recipe for success.

The Ottawa Senators are the latest to latch onto this idea, toying with the idea of adding lycra-clad, navel-baring “Ice Girls” during TV time-outs to scoop excess snow off the ice to spice up these mundane breaks in play.

Presently, a none-too-sexy maintenance crew of middle-aged, often balding men does the duties.

The addition of the Ice Girls could pump life into an ailing product, boost the atmosphere of games and hopefully help spur ticket sales by contributing to the overall experience. It seems a lot could be resting on the delicate shoulders of these shovel-packing beauties in push-up bras.

This could be taken as an admission that the product the Senators are putting on the ice isn’t entertaining enough on its own. In the National Hockey League, only the New York Islanders use the Ice Girls and only the Carolina Hurricanes have cheerleaders.

Both teams have a history of icing dull squads and struggling at the gate and need help to turn their fortunes around.

But on the other hand, it’s not uncommon to see the sex sells philosophy applied successfully with other sports and teams. Cheerleaders are mainstays at football and basketball games across North America, and both the Ottawa Rebel and Ottawa 67’s recently held try-outs for their dance teams. In boxing, a bikini-clad woman will make a runway walk of the ring between rounds with cards reminding spectators of the round number (because they’re looking at the cards).

In most sports where adrenaline and testosterone run rampant, sex is just part of the show. So, in many respects, you could suggest the NHL has been a little slow on the draw with this.

The problem for sports comes when sex takes over as the main attraction, instead of being a sidebar to the action. Sex can help sell a product, but in the end, the product has to offer enough to keep fans coming back.

This is especially true for women’s sports, where leagues often take advantage of athletic beauty to sell the game, but quickly find out it’s only a short-term solution.

The Federation of International Volleyball took heat in the press, but also gained mass publicity, when it dictated that female players must wear either a one-piece swimsuit-style outfit or high-cut V-shaped shorts with tight shirts. The new form-fitting uniforms were aimed at accentuating players’ athletic bodies and increasing fan-appeal.

Australia’s women’s soccer team doffed their clothes for a calendar to successfully gain exposure and funding before the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

The accomplishments of female tennis players are continuously overshadowed by the whereabouts of Anna Kournikova, based more on her legs than her talent.

But, in all these cases, people eventually tuned out the skin and were left with a less-interesting product.

The hype for women’s volleyball died after their story was exhausted, the awareness for Australia’s soccer team fell again after the Olympics and it was soon realized that Kournikova can’t play tennis with the best.

The challenge for the Senators will be to tastefully use sex as an addition, not a crutch for selling the team.

Even though the Ice Girls may provide temporary glee to some fans when they hit the ice, they’re still not allowed to score.

And that’s where games — and fans — are won or lost.