SBD/May 2, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Coors Light To Title Sponsor NHL Stadium Series; League Confirms Soldier Field Game

Soldier Field will host one of the reported five Stadium Series games next season
MillerCoors' title sponsorship of the newly created Coors Light NHL Stadium Series, which will include a Penguins-Blackhawks game at Soldier Field on March 1, is viewed by the league as a separate arrangement from Bridgestone’s title sponsorship of the NHL Winter Classic. NHL Senior VP/Corporate Sales & Marketing Keith Wachtel said, "The Winter Classic remains as our crown jewel outdoor event in the U.S. The stadium series will be different in scope." Other outdoor games, including a pair at Yankee Stadium during Super Bowl week that will pit the Rangers against the Devils and Islanders, will be announced in the coming weeks. Reports indicate there will be at least five games in the series. MillerCoors' sponsorship of the stadium series is part of the beer company’s seven-year, $375M deal signed with the NHL in February '11, the league’s most financially lucrative sponsorship ever. Wachtel said, "Back then, we spoke to MillerCoors about these kinds of major events, events they wanted to own. This is part of that deal." As the NHL has with the Bridgestone Winter Classic, Wachtel expects to add presenting partners for the Coors Light Stadium Series. Those sponsors will receive assets such as on-ice and camera-side dasherboard advertising. He said, "We’re looking at having four or five presenting partners" (Christopher Botta, Staff Writer).

MARKET WATCH: In N.Y., Belson & Klein note NHL teams and cities have been "clamoring" to host outdoor games, as they generate "outsize television audiences, healthy merchandise sales and opportunities for teams and cities to sell extra sponsorships and tickets." NHL COO John Collins said, "The local perspective is so unbelievably powerful. Everybody in that market -- even people who don’t write about hockey -- are forced to cover hockey for the four or five days we’re in the market." The NHL in the coming weeks is "expected to announce" a Ducks-Kings game at Dodger Stadium as well as a Senators-Canucks matchup at BC Place. It is "unclear whether the Stadium Series will be a permanent fixture on the NHL schedule, but considering the possible link between the series and the Olympics, it appears unlikely there will be as many as six outdoor games in non-Olympic years" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/2). ESPN.com's Scott Burnside wrote the NHL has "long been criticized -- and rightly so -- for being too timid, too parochial, too unwilling to seize the moment and work at becoming more than just a niche sport in the United States." But when the league "does think outside the box, it is flayed in some quarters." Burnside: "Funny how much of the criticism of the league has come from the media, and yet we haven't heard much carping from the fans themselves" (ESPN.com, 5/1).

TIMING IS EVERYTHING: YAHOO SPORTS' Nick Cotsonika noted the NHL has reasons to stage six outdoor games next season, and it "goes beyond high demand among teams and fans." The league wants to "go hard in its first full season after the lockout." It wants to "capitalize on the hoopla leading up to the New York/New Jersey Super Bowl on Feb. 2." Assuming the NHL goes to the Sochi Olympics, it wants to "give TV partners NBC and CBC something to promote during the Games and something that will excite fans about the restart of the regular season." The Winter Classic was created to "make a national impact in the U.S. and the NHL wants it to continue to have that national impact as its own brand." But Collins said of how those events have worked in the host markets, "The impact at the local level is becoming an equal part of the story." Cotsonika noted the Stadium Series "doesn’t need to have the same national impact if it has the same local impact." The Blackhawks think that the game at Soldier Field "will be even bigger than" the '09 Winter Classic at Wrigley Field. Collins said, "The ability to bring the Penguins into Solider Field, another one of those iconic venues in Chicago, I think is just going to create an awful lot of enthusiasm and sets up to be just a fantastic event for us." He added, "I think the Stadium Series idea is all about tapping into that local passion, which you experience when you’re there." Collins: "Let’s light up the markets around hockey as brightly as we can" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/1).

GOING BIG TIME: Penguins President & CEO David Morehouse said of the series' proximity to the Sochi Games, "The last Olympic gold-medal game (2010) had all NHL players and a big (television) audience, so being part of the outdoor game around then was something we liked." He added, "We like to help the NHL with these kind of signature events." Morehouse said that details for tickets "are being worked out," but added that the Penguins "will get an allotment for the game at Chicago" (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 5/2).
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