By the Staff of NYSportsJournalism.com
December 26, 2016: Backed by marketing and media partners, current players, icons led by Wayne Gretzky and a multi-platform strategy, the NHL this season is celebrating its 100th anniversary, with events that were unveiled in October to run January through December.
But the reason for the league being named as a Top Sports Marketer was the World Cup of Hockey, which ran for three weeks in September, under the auspices of the NHL and the NHL Players' Assn., with many of the best hockey players in the world on the ice.
It also included a roster of top-flight marketers that have put their brand names into what the NHL intends to be an event that will impact fans and consumers with many of the touch-points seen at the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup.
Among the companies attached to the two-week event were Air Canada, AutoTrader.ca, Canadian Tire, EA, Esso/Exxon Mobil, Geico, Honda, Molson Coors, PepsiCo, Pizza Pizza, Rogers Communications SAP, Scotiabank, Sonnet, Ticketmaster, Tim Hortons, Upper Deck and Visa.
In addition, this was the first NHL-related international exposure for adidas under its new deal, which takes over from its own division, Reebok, as the official outfitter for the NHL via a seven-year pact beginning with the 2017 season. The deal included outfitting all eight teams in the World Cup.
In another first, SAP was the official sponsor of every team jersey, with a logo patch on the right shoulder of all jerseys.
The World Cup — which was won by Team Canada — also was ESPN's first significant NHL event coverage in about a dozen years.
"The caliber of these partners shows the enthusiastic response for the World Cup of Hockey 2016," said Kyle McMann, group vp-integrated sales for the NHL. "The World Cup of Hockey has provided us the opportunity to both deepen our relationship with many longstanding NHL partners, while also serving as a catalyst for several brand new relationships.
Over the past few months, the NHL also hired Heidi Browning as evp and CMO; unveiled Las Vegas as its next team; and signed new marketing deals, including one naming Dunkin’ Donuts the official U.S. coffee, donut and breakfast sandwich of the NHL.
It is Dunkin' Donuts' first national sports league partnership,
Planning for the Centennial celebration has been on-going, but it officially begins on Jan. 1, 2017, in Toronto with the NHL Centennial Classic outdoor game between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs in BMO Field. A 12-month “festival of events and content initiatives” will culminate with the anniversary of the league's founding on Nov. 26 and first games on Dec. 19.
Events will include the naming of the 100 Greatest NHL Players in history during All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles, Jan 25-27, with No. 1 arguably being Gretzky, who will serve as the official ambassador for the entire Centennial Celebration.
The NHL said that its marketing partners would activate behind the year-long event across all platforms, POP, merchandise and elsewhere, with details to follow. NHL support would include TV — including a current spot narrated by actor Michael Chiklis — radio, print, Internet, social media and in-arena.
"The perpetuation of the game of hockey has been in progress ever since 1917," said NHL commission Gary Bettman during a pre-season media event. "The men who met (more than one hundred years ago to form the NHL) could not possibly imagine that a day would come when the league’s regular season and playoffs would be attended by more than 23 million fans in 30 markets, soon to be 31 (Las Vegas in 2017). But that has brought us to this historic moment when we anticipate the NHL’s 100th birthday."
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