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Brands Hit The Ice With NHL Partnerships

By Apr 26, 2006

Marketers have returned in full force to activate various sponsorships around National Hockey League (NHL) events, dangling sweepstakes prizes and other perks to keep loyal fans buzzing.

Brands’ return to the ice comes as the NHL continues to rebuild its image and lure fans back to the sport following a 301-day lockout and cancellation of its 2004-05 season. Centered around the NHL’s new ad campaign and tagline, “My Stanley Cup,” Canada leads the pack in promotional tie-ins to the sport.

For example, Best Buy Canada offers fans the chance to score tickets to the Stanley Cup Final through an online contest at Bestbuy.ca. One winner will receive a trip for two to a Stanley Cup Final game. The promotion ends May 21. Best Buy also runs TV ads on both NBC and Outdoor Life Network (OLN) throughout the playoffs.

Canadian fans can also enter a unique PIN code on specially marked bottles of Coca-Cola’s Black Cherry Vanilla Coke online at iCoke.ca for a chance to win a trip for two to a Stanley Cup Playoff game.

In addition, Canadian consumers can paint their way to the playoffs by submitting a photo of their “Ultimate NHL Room” via Home Depot’s Win Tickets to the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals sweeps, which ends April 30. The winner will receive a trip for four to Game 4 of the finals. Details are available at HomeDepot.ca/Stanleycup.

For its part, Kraft Canada sponsors the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.’s series Hockeyville. The program chronicles the search for Canada’s favorite hockey town in a seven-part series, which began last month. Each week, former Beverly Hills 90210 star Cameron Bancroft and other celebrity co-hosts profile various communities across the country.

Viewers can help the celebrity panel of judges select the winning hockey community by voting for the top community at Cbhockeyville.ca. The winning community will be announced on June 11 and will receive a $44,000 gift card from Home Depot for arena upgrades.

In the U.S., Dodge activates its sponsorship throughout the playoffs on NBC and OLN with the Dodge Intermission Report. The automaker also launched a playoff campaign online called Vote for the Toughest NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Series Presented By The All-New 2007 Dodge Caliber. After each round of the playoffs, fans can visit NHL.com/dodge to watch video highlights and vote for the toughest series. Voters can enter to win a host of prizes, including a trip to Games 3 and 4 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final, a trip to the 2006 NHL Awards Show and the 2006 NHL Entry Draft in Vancouver, autographed NHL merchandise or the grand prize—a 2007 Dodge Caliber.

MasterCard and MBNA are teaming up for the MasterCard Your Crew at the Cup Sweepstakes. U.S. fans that use their MBNA-issued NHL MasterCard will automatically be entered for a chance to win one of two trips for four to a Stanley Cup Final game. In addition, the winner and guests will be part of the Ice Crew Experience, where they will meet the home team’s ice crew and prepare the ice for a day of practice during the final. The sweepstakes runs through May 2. Online materials support.

Sweepstakes details are available on MasterCard’s micro site, MasterCard.com/us/personal/en/crewatthecup/index.html. Consumers can also enter the sweeps by applying for MBNA NHL WorldPoints MasterCard credit cards at MBNA.com.

During the NHL’s regular season Sprint, which is the presenting sponsor of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on NBC, conducted a national text-messaging-based sweepstakes at select NHL arenas. The promotion let hockey fans showcase messages on arena jumbotrons during games in seven NHL markets. Fans who sent text messages were automatically entered into a sweepstakes for a chance to win a trip for one winner and 10 friends to attend a Stanley Cup Final game. Sprint plans to activate similar promotions during the playoffs, an NHL spokesperson said.

“We’re very fortunate that things have played out very well this season, actually better than expected, and we really owe that to NHL fans who are the most loyal and passionate fans,” said NHL spokesperson Bernadette Mansur.

Despite the lockout, “We did not lose any of our sponsors because we communicated with them what was happening and they were very patient with us,” Mansur said. “Now we’re activating programs with them through the Stanley Cup Finals.”

The NHL projected the season would bring the league $1.7 billion in revenues, Mansur said. “We’re now tracking over $2 billion. We’ve come back very strong.”

Although the majority of alliances may be with Canadian companies, the bulk of sponsorship dollars the NHL receives is primarily from larger U.S. businesses, Mansur said.

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