SBD/February 3, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NHL's Heritage Classic Promotion Falls Short Of Winter Classic Effort

The upcoming Canadiens-Flames Heritage Classic in Calgary is a "second-class citizen" compared to the annual NHL Winter Classic, according to Stu Hackel of SI.com. In the run-up to the Winter Classic, the NHL "did all it could and more to promote the event, the teams, the players, the venue -- you name it." But with the Feb. 20 Heritage Classic rapidly approaching, a search on the NHL's media website "reveals all of eight press releases." The league's "big promotional push, which apparently began [Tuesday], seems to be a big 18-wheel trailer truck filled with the ice making equipment that is driving from Toronto to Calgary and stopping at points in between." The "afterthought nature of the NHL's limp promotional effort is compounded by a double indignity in the fact that this truck won't be motoring east to help promote the game in the town of one of the participating teams." There is a "nagging sense the Heritage Classic is a burden for the league, an obligation to the sport in its birthplace that won't bring them any tangible benefit in U.S. TV ratings, sponsorships or merchandise sales." Canada is a "mature hockey market and the growth possibilities in the U.S. seems to inspire the league far more." But the "relative negligence is not just obvious, it doesn't serve the league's own interests." Hackel: "This is a cross-border business and there's much to gain by promoting a unique game like the one in Calgary -- not the least of which is improving the league's image" (SI.com, 2/2).

SHINING STARS: Last week's NHL All-Star Weekend in Raleigh posted significant increases in viewership in the U.S. and Canada, an all-time record for video starts on NHL.com and the best retail performance for a U.S.-based All-Star Game in seven years. The league also saw a 12% increase in sponsorship revenue over the '09 All-Star Game in Montreal and a 42% increase over the '08 game in Atlanta. Overall retail sales were the third-best in history for a U.S.-based All-Star Game, as sales were up 20% over '08 and 27% over '07. More than 31,000 people attended the NHL Fan Fair event in Raleigh over the weekend (NHL).
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