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Volume 24 No. 114

Marketing and Sponsorship

NBCUniversal to "get the word out" about this season's NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs broadcasts has "enlisted a bevy of its TV journalists to take part in a fictional newscast about tracking a missing version of the popular sports trophy," according to Brian Steinberg of VARIETY. The "centerpiece of the campaign is a spot featuring comedian Nick Kroll and a gang of 'Cupnappers' stealing the prize." The spot is "slated to debut on April Fool’s Day." The news team, which "consists of David Gregory from 'Meet the Press' as well as Jim Cramer, Carl Quintanilla, and Kayla Tausche from CNBC," also will be seen in a 90-second trailer "slated to run on more than 19,000 screens in 48 states -- enough so that more than 60% of all moviegoers should get a glimpse if they aren’t lined up at the concession stand." The campaign’s producers "took pains to make certain the newscasters were taking part in a fictional event." NBC Sports Group Senior VP/Marketing Bill Bergofin said, “We always are hypersensitive to making it clear it’s something of a farce and not real." NHL CMO Brian Jennings said that the overall idea is to "mix a traditional TV-based tune-in campaign featuring Kroll with a non-traditional effort that offers 'a light-hearted and playful perspective on our holy grail, the Stanley Cup with the intention to create buzz for the Playoffs'" (, 3/28).

Many of the ads on the Air Canada Centre boards during the Red Wings-Maple Leafs game on Saturday were "written in Mandarin" in an attempt by MLSE to "take advantage of a new television deal" the NHL has secured, according to Susan Krashinsky of the GLOBE & MAIL. There are 87 NHL games this season "being broadcast on China’s CCTV network, 12 of them Leafs games." MLSE "does not receive any of the TV rights fees for national and international broadcast deals, but the company recognized that the NHL’s efforts to grow its presence in China could be a valuable opportunity for its advertisers." There were 11 advertisers for Saturday's game that "agreed to place Chinese-language rink boards," including Purolator, BlackBerry, Bank of Nova Scotia and Avis Budget Group, among others. Purolator's sign had "the brand name in English, and the slogan, 'Canada's Leading Express Carrier,' in Mandarin." Purolator VP/Marketing Ramsey Mansour said, "It seemed like a natural fit for us. This is a great way for us to connect with a multicultural, global audience." MLSE Chief Commercial Officer Dave Hopkinson said that the broadcasts in China are "already attracting roughly 300,000 households, on average." However, the timing "is not ideal" for CCTV, as a 7:00pm ET game is 7:00am in Beijing. So the network broadcasts the games "live on television and online" and then "re-airs the games in prime time" (GLOBE & MAIL, 3/29). In Toronto, Morgan Campbell noted MasterCard's rinkboard ad during the game featured the company's logo and the message "Hello, China," while Hero Certified Burgers' sign declares the company will "Really love Chinese ice hockey fans." The ads are "part of an increasingly aggressive strategy to transform the Leafs from Canadian phenomenon into a worldwide sports brand, a campaign that has gained momentum" since MLSE President & CEO Tim Leiweke took over last summer (TORONTO STAR, 3/29).

Chevrolet is allowing NASCAR driver Kurt Busch to "drive a Honda in the upcoming Indianapolis 500, and it will consider letting Dale Earnhardt Jr. experience a Honda if a discussed car swap with Graham Rahal takes the next step," according to Curt Cavin of the INDIANAPOLIS STAR. But Chevrolet VP/Performance Vehicles & Motorsports Jim Campbell said that there is a "difference between the two situations." Campbell: "At the time Kurt did his (IndyCar rookie test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year) we were aligned with Andretti (Autosport). We were certainly hoping Kurt would be able to find a Chevy team to run with this year, but we understood that these deals take a long time to work out.” Cavin notes Andretti is a Honda team for '14. Campbell said that there has been "no formal request from Earnhardt to drive Rahal’s car, so until that happens there’s actually nothing to comment on." The link to Rahal is "based on both drivers being sponsored by the National Guard" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 3/31). Campbell said, "If we get a proposal, we'll take a look at it and we'll look at it with an open set of eyes. The rest is hypothetical. Broadly speaking about any Chevy driver that is currently on our roster, if they decided to go race in another category or series, of course we'd love to see them in Chevys. There's no doubt about that. In some cases it works out like that, and in some cases it doesn't." Earnhardt last week said of a potential swap, "He drives a Honda, which is more than just a speed bump. If I wanted to drive an IndyCar, I'm sure I could get with Penske or somebody who owned a Chevy and take a couple laps somewhere. But it would have been fun to do that with Graham because of the relationship with our sponsor and the history of our families" (AP, 3/29).