By Barry Janoff
June 9, 2015: The NHL, in the midst of a Stanley Cup Finals that is drawing strong ratings on NBC, has a major reason to celebrate the 2014-15 season: Sponsorship spending on the NHL and the league’s 30 clubs is on a record pace and is expected to total $447 million.
That figure is up $60 million (9.2%) from the previous year and nearly $100 million more than the $356 million total in 2011, according to the IEG Sponsorship Report from marketing, research and consulting firm IEG, Chicago.
The rise exceeded IEG’s projected 4% increase in overall sponsorship spending and 4.4% increase in overall sports spending.
The most active among sponsors was Reebok (100% sponsorship), which is an official league partner and has deals with every NHL team.
Reebok is followed by Enterprise (80%), Geico (70%), TicketMister (60%), Toyota (53%), Coca-Cola (50%), PepsiCo (50%), MillerCoors (43%) and Tim Hortons (40%), according to IEG.
Even with this rise, the NHL has a way to go versus other major sports in North America. The NFL's sponsorship revenue in 2014 was $1.5 billion, MLB sponsorship revenue in 2014 was $695 million and NBA sponsorship revenue in 2013-14 was $679 million, according to IEG.
Worldwide sponsorship revenue on motorsports topped $5.3 billion this year, golf hit $1.65 billion in 2014 and tennis was at $739 million. per IEG.
None the less, the NHL has reason to celebrate.
“Without a doubt, the 2014-2015 season represents a banner year for the NHL in terms of sponsorship revenue,” William Chipps, senior editor for the IEG Sponsorship Report, said in a statement.
New league sponsors this past season included Constellation, DraftKings, GoPro, Kellogg’s, Samsung, SAP and Procter & Gamble (in Canada, for brands including Crest and Oral-B).
Discover, a league partner since 2010, recently extended its official alliance with the NHL through 2019.
In individual categories, quick-service restaurants replaced automakers as the most active category sponsoring the NHL and its teams in the 2014-2015 season, with QSRs 5.4 times more likely to activate with the NHL than the average of all sponsors, according to IEG.
Auto was second (4.6), followed by the insurance category (4.1), beer (3.4), hospitals (3.3), food (3.1), banks 93.0), sports apparel and equipment (2.8), non-alcoholic beverages (2.5) and telecom (2.1).
Game 1 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Finals on NBC averaged 5.5 million viewers, off 2% from Game 1 of the 2014 Cup. The second game averaged 6.6 million, the most-watched Stanley Cup Game 2 since 1994, according to NBC Sports.
Game 3 averaged 3.9 million viewers, up 35% from Game 3 in 2014 (Los Angeles Kings-New York Rangers).
In a separate report, the Chicago Blackhawks, currently playing the Tampa Bay Lightning in the NHL Finals for an opportunity to win their third Stanley Cup since 2009-10, were ranked as the team with the most loyal fans for the second consecutive season.
Concurrently, the Lightning moved up from No. 26 last year to No. 8 this year, according to the Sports Fan Loyalty Index: NHL from research and consultancy firm Brand Keys, New York. The report helps to provide brands with an insight as to which fans, teams and cities might best respond to marketing efforts, according to Brand Keys.
The Top Five also included (in order) the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens (tied for No. 2), St. Louis Blues, Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Bottom Five were the Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers, Winnipeg Jets and Columbus Blue Jackets and Phoenix Coyotes (tied for last), per IEG.
Of the four Major League sports that Brand Keys tracks in its Sports Fan Loyalty Index, the NFL is first followed by MLB, the NBA and the NHL.
“Without a doubt, the 2014-2015 season represents a banner year for the NHL in terms of sponsorship revenue."
Fan loyalty "represents the ultimate trophy a sports marketer can win,” Robert Passikoff, Brand Keys founder and president, said in a statement.
NHL North American corporate marketing partners include Advil, Bridgestone, Coors Light, EA Sports, Enterprise, Gatorade, Honda, Panini, PepsiCo and Reebok.
NHL partners in the U.S. include AMP Energy, Discover, Geico and McDonald's.
NHL partners in Canada include Canadian Tire, Diageo, Hershey's, L'Oreal Men, Mondelez, P&G, ScotiaBank, Tim Hortons, Rogers and Visa.
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