NHL will be aggressive in trying new initiatives amid hunt to grow revenues

A Prudential logo on the helmet of New Jersey Devils forward Kyle Palmieri. (Elliotte Friedman/Twitter)

Amidst great fanfare, three NHL teams — New Jersey, Washington and Nashville — unveiled their helmet ads on Tuesday, becoming the first teams to do so. They won’t be the last, and these ads won’t be the only new sponsor activations fans notice during the upcoming season.

“Of course, the teams are in a big hole,” Nashville chief revenue officer Chris Junghans told The Associated Press. “So, they’re looking for valuable, tangible assets that will help us make partners whole. And it needed to be valuable, it needed to be dynamic.”

As the bubbled Stanley Cup Playoffs concluded last September, the NHL and its teams worked together to figure out what worked from an advertising standpoint; how to best serve/protect local and league-wide sponsors. The major question: “What can we do if we don’t have fans in the arenas?”

According to multiple sources, the league believes it will be able to retain $80 to $90 million in sponsorship revenue that would have been lost in 2020-21 without new initiatives. What’s particularly interesting is that these are all one-year contracts for brand preservation and make-good value. It allows everyone to test/learn the true value of these placements, without locking into long-term marriages.

What you are going to see:

HELMET DECALS

You’ll notice that the first three sponsors — Capital One (Capitals); Prudential (Devils) and Bridgestone (Predators) — have their names on those teams’ arenas. This sponsorship is reserved for that kind of major partner. Teams are allowed to use one sponsor with the home helmets, another for the road helmets if they wish. (There is also the option of placing an ad on practice helmets.)

The dimensions are 2.5 inches high, and 3.7 inches wide. The equipment managers played a key role in this process, testing the ads’ placement on the three different helmets allowed by the NHL. The league wanted as uniform a look as possible.

 
Elliotte Friedman on helmet ads, where the Canucks will play
December 22 2020

VIRTUAL ON-ICE ADVERTISING

Any NHL television viewer is familiar with the area around the blue line where the league will stamp “Welcome back, fans” or “Stanley Cup Playoffs” on the ice. Hockey Operations isn’t crazy about this process, especially during the post-season. It wants the ice protected, not tampered with.

The exact details are still being negotiated with everyone involved (including the TV partners), but the league is working on projecting “virtual ads” just inside the bluelines. The technology necessary to do this is already being installed in arenas as part of the NHL’s puck-tracking system. SMT, the league’s partner in that endeavour, created football’s yellow first-down line.

The NHL will monitor fan reaction to these initiatives. Helmet ads sure caused a ton of social media debate, but I’m curious to see the reaction to this when it occurs.

EXPANDED BENCH SIGNAGE

There are already ads on the boards behind the coaches as they stand, but what’s also being discussed are ads on the glass. Over the holidays, an LED system will be tested, but there will be stiff standards against glare onto the ice and into the players’ faces, so that’s no guarantee.

If there are no fans in the building, no one has to worry about seeing through these ads. But see-through versions are also being examined.

EDGE WRAP

On the glass, just above the boards. Six different configurations, including behind both nets. See-through. Two partners to share the opportunity.

TARP SEAT COVERS

If you watched last summer’s playoffs in the bubble, you saw these in the lower bowl. Neutral colours, no black so the puck is hidden from goalies.

Also Tuesday, the NHL announced a deal with Guaranteed Rate — now the league’s official U.S.-based mortgage partner. In the hunt to grow revenues as COVID vaccines are distributed through North America, the NHL is going to be aggressive in trying new things.

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