SBJ/September 12-18, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

Honda to increase spending in NHL renewal

The NHL has renewed its partnership with Honda for marketing rights within the United States, ending the auto manufacturer’s North American deal signed in 2008.

It is the NHL’s first major partnership renewal since the league signed its landmark 10-year, $187 million-a-year media rights deal with NBC in April.

Sources said the Honda deal runs through the 2013-14 season. Honda’s previous deal with the NHL ended the league’s 13-year relationship with previous auto partner Dodge.

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Honda signed a North American deal with the NHL in 2008. The renewal is for U.S. rights.
The initial Honda deal had a $4 million annual rights fee and included rights within the United States and Canada.

The league declined to discuss terms of the new deal. Sources familiar with the partnership said Honda will be spending 50 percent more in total commitments, including media spending and event activation.

“It’s a bigger investment, but we feel it merits it because the property is bigger and is going in the right direction,” said Tom Peyton, brand manager for Honda. “Hockey is an efficient buy for us.”

The NHL worked with NBC officials during the negotiations with Honda. Keith Wachtel, senior vice president for corporate sales and marketing for the NHL, said the added assets from NBC helped drive the price.

This year, NBC and Versus will televise 100 regular-season games, up from 64 last year. The networks also will televise the entire Stanley Cup playoffs nationally.

“Any league marketing partner is obligated to commit to media with NBC, and it’s not just broadcast, it’s digital as well,” Wachtel said. “It makes sense for us to attack the marketplace with NBC because we both have assets that need to be packaged and sold together.”

NBC officials declined to discuss specifics about the media that Honda would receive other than to say the auto manufacturer would gain inventory on NBC, Versus, the NHL Network, NBCsports.com and NHL.com. Seth Winter, senior vice president of sports and Olympics sales and marketing for NBC, said the broadcaster also no longer deals with blackouts in local markets due to local team deals.

“Not only the volume of games, but the exclusive windows we have makes the package more compelling,” Winter said.

In addition to the media, Honda will receive dasherboard branding during nationally televised games, including playoff games, an element that was not included in the old deal.

Honda also will remain a major sponsor of the Winter Classic and will retain its title sponsorship of the Super Skills competition at the All-Star Game when that game is played in the United States. Honda will not have a presence at the 2012 All-Star Game in Ottawa.

Honda will increase its involvement with the NHL draft and NHL awards show. Peyton said Honda would continue to promote its Odyssey, Ridgeline and Pilot models at NHL games and would continue to have on-site activation at any U.S.-based All-Star Game and the Winter Classic. Honda previously featured an interactive stick-handling challenge at the marquee events.

Along with its NHL relationship, Honda sponsors the Anaheim Ducks and has the naming rights to Anaheim’s Honda Center. It’s also title sponsor of the Los Angeles Marathon and the Honda Classic PGA Tour event in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

Wachtel said the league is pursuing automakers in Canada and hopes to have a partner in that category by the All-Star Game in late January.

In other NHL business, U.S. partners Geico, McDonald’s, Verizon and Discover Card are in renewal negotiations with the league, and North American partners Compuware, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Pepsi, Ticketmaster and Starwood are all in the last year of their partnerships.

“Four years ago, we wouldn’t have a major category partner clamoring for a United States-only partnership,” Wachtel said.

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