SBJ/Jan. 17-23, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

McDonald's lovin' NHL for another season

McDonald’s has finalized a one-year extension with the NHL to maintain its rights as the league’s American quick-service restaurant through the end of the 2010-11 season. Under the media-heavy deal, McDonald’s becomes title sponsor of NBC’s inaugural “Hockey Day in America” on Feb. 20, which includes four games spread across six hours of hockey programming.

The NHL declined to discuss the value of the partnership. Accompanying advertising will appear on NBC and Versus, as well as on the NHL Network and NHL.com. The NHL’s integrated sales team managed the extension.
A Canadian partner of the NHL from 1993 until last year, McDonald’s started its American partnership with the league at the 2009 Winter Classic in Chicago. McDonald’s also has regional partnerships with six U.S.-based NHL teams. The quick-service restaurant, whose league sponsorship extends through the breakfast and coffee categories, activates heavily around the outdoor game and the NHL All-Star Game.

“We like how [the NHL] has created a must-see event with the Winter Classic, we like to take advantage of the high-profile events,” said John Lewicki, McDonald’s senior director of alliance marketing. “Now NBC has jumped in to create a unique watchable event to get Americans back into hockey. It’s a great matchup for us.”
Winter Classic
GETTY IMAGES
McDonald's partnership with the NHL includes prominent signage at the Winter Classic.

NBC’s programming block for “Hockey Day in America” kicks off at noon ET on Feb. 20 and includes three staggered regional games between the Washington Capitals and Buffalo Sabres, Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers, and Detroit Red Wings and Minnesota Wild. The national coverage continues at 3:30 p.m. with the Game of the Week match between the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins.

The programming begins with a 30-minute pregame show that includes short vignettes that highlight the “American hockey lifestyle,” such as hockey moms, backyard pond hockey and pee-wee games.

Jon Miller, executive vice president of NBC Sports, said producers have spent six months producing the content. “We want to show how hockey permeates the American lifestyle on multiple levels,” Miller said. “It’s a celebration of hockey.”

Miller said Hockey Day piggybacks off the three-day “Hockey Weekend Across America,” which was started in 2008 by USA Hockey as a celebration for the sport and included regional amateur tournaments. Hockey Weekend was originally in late January, but NBC and the governing body agreed to move the weekend back three weeks to accommodate the programming block. Miller said Hockey Day’s Feb. 20 date “dovetailed very nicely” with the NHL’s Heritage Classic outdoor game between the Calgary Flames and Montreal Canadiens, which will air on Versus that evening.

Keith Wachtel, NHL senior vice president of integrated sales, said the youth hockey element of Hockey Day was especially attractive to McDonald’s, whose “In The Line Up” contest selects children to stand on the ice during the national anthem alongside the players. Wachtel said that McDonald’s will maintain sponsorship of the accuracy competition at the All-Star Game and retain signage behind the benches and penalty box at the All-Star Game and the Winter Classic.

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