NHL: Game On The Ice, Business Off The Ice 'Has Never Been Better'

April 14, 2011: With the Stanley Cup playoffs underway, and a potential record-setting TV rights battle looming after that, the NHL said it is on pace for its fifth consecutive year of record total revenue and is projected to bring in more than $2.9 billion by the end of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The league said the growth was led by "dramatic increases in sponsorship and merchandise sales, landmark corporate investment in its big events and impressive digital growth."

According to the NHL, 2010-11 was a record year for sponsorship sales with gross sales up 33% over last year. Topping the chart was a new seven-year partnership with Molson Coors in Canada and MillerCoors in the U.S. to begin in July – the biggest sponsorship in the league's 93-year history.

The NHL also added Discover Card as the first presenting sponsor of the All-Star Game in a decade, and signed or renewed sponsorship deals with Bridgestone, Canadian Tire, Cisco Systems, McDonald's, Huggies, RIM/Blackberry and Tim Hortons.

Three jewel events also drove on-ice action and fan, consumer and corporate interest: the outdoor Bridgestone Winter Classic, which was played at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field on New Year's Day; the All-Star Game, played in Charlotte, which returned after a year's hiatus due to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver; and the return of the outdoor Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic in Calgary, which was played for the first time since 2003.

Among other highlights cited by the league, the NHL Network increased ad revenue this season by 70% while unveiling multiple enhancements and original programming; NHL merchandise sales had a 15% increase over last year, with experiencing a 9% growth over last year's record; regular season TV viewership increased by 17% over last year; and revenue for the NHL's digital businesses increased by 14%, with revenue alone up 28%, setting a new best, according to the NHL.

In social media,the NHL said its Facebook page has 1.46 million fans, a 436% increase over last year, and that NHL followers on Twitter have increased by 54%.

In arenas, the NHL said teams averaged 17,132 fans and played to 93.2% of capacity.  This average is the third largest all-time and represents an increase over last year.

"The game on the ice, which has never been better, has fueled much of our business momentum," John Collins, NHL COO, said in a statement. "There is a buzz around our game. Fans are talking hockey, watching hockey and engaging with the NHL like never before. That in turn has led to the corporate community taking notice and embracing their association with the league in meaningful, creative and impactful ways."

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