The Stanley Cup Final begins tonight, but the league’s licensees and retailers are already smiling. As would be expected, “if-win" orders for championship-licensed product heavily favor the Rangers. Still, the league has already seen sales more than double from last year during the playoffs on Shop.NHL.com. While all the counting is not done, the league is on track to have its best merchandise sales year ever, just a season and a half after a lockout cancelled 41.5% of the '12-13 campaign. "We’ve really seen our hot markets pop, especially in New York," said NHL VP/Consumer Products Marketing Dave McCarthy. Strong sales on the way to the championship round came in Chicago, where a “Blackhawks Nation” has coalesced after two championships in four years. Also contributing was a re-energized Montreal market, which had the only Canadian team in the playoffs. No team from Canada has won the Stanley Cup since the Canadiens in '93. Even so, NHL Consumers Products Group VP Jim Haskins said the league "saw a big bounce back across Canada." Haskins: "But our best story is an increased presence across North America, with some of the largest retailers." He cited a better retail presence at national retailers like Dick’s Sporting Goods and Lids, which ran an in-store promo allowing fans to see themselves with a virtual playoff beard through in-store technology allowing bearded “selfies.” In the same vein, the NHL did some limited licensing with “Beard Gang” apparel. As for specific items, Fanatics.com reports that its top selling NHL items for the past days were conference champion locker room T-shirts from Majestic for both the Rangers and Kings, along with a Rangers conference championship cap from Reebok.
IT WAS 20 YEARS AGO TODAY: Licensees have issued product connecting the '94 Rangers Stanley Cup-winning team with the '14 club, especially with GIII’s Starter brand. Members of the '94 team will be making appearances at Modell’s and the NHL store in Manhattan. MSG’s “Dancing Larry” also will be making visits to Modell’s. A viewing party is planned for Manhattan’s Bryant Park tonight and two Rangers/Reebok-branded retail tents will feed the buying frenzy.
EA Sports' "Madden NFL 15" cover vote is down to Panthers QB Cam Newton vs. Seahawks CB Richard Sherman, and Newton "called out Sherman in a 2 1/2-minute video posted to YouTube on Monday," according to Jonathan Jones of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. Newton, who is in the cover vote finals for the second time in three years, "challenges Sherman to a game of Madden by asking him to call a phony hotline called 'CAM PAIN.'" He says in the video, "Richard Sherman, I want to challenge you in a game of Madden. If you don’t want to play me, that is cool and that’s understandable, because these thumbs are official.” Newton also offers a parody of "Sherman’s famous post-NFC Championship interview with Erin Andrews." He says, "I’m the best gamer in the league, and when you try me with sorry gamers like that, that’s the result you get." Jones notes Newton reached the cover vote finals after defeating Colts QB Andrew Luck in the seminfinals, while Sherman topped 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick. Fans "can vote until Friday" for the cover, and the two "will appear in a 'SportsCenter' segment" at 6:00pm ET that day when the winner will be announced. Sherman's "propensity to be brash -- and backing it up on the field -- has earned him a reputation as one of the biggest trash talkers in the league." Newton’s "playful video -- one that resembles a professional wrestling promo -- gets at that brashness" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 6/4).
Online consumer-review service Angie’s List has "cut a deal to become the title sponsor" of the Verizon IndyCar Series Grand Prix of Indianapolis through '16, and plans to "help pack the stands with 5,000 of its own spectators," according to Mason King of the INDIANAPOLIS BUSINESS JOURNAL. Angie's List said that the firm plans to "host 5,000 of its 'very best' service providers at the race as a reward for 'playing an integral part in the company’s plan to revolutionize local customer service.'" Angie's List co-Founder & CMO Angie Hicks Bowman said, "This is a world-class race, and we’ll bring in world-class service companies, not just to reward them, but to work hand-in-hand to change the way local service is delivered" (IBJ.com, 6/3). In Indianapolis, Curt Cavin notes terms of the two-year arrangement "weren't made public, but with sponsorship, tickets and hospitality factored in, the deal figures to be high-six figures." Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials talked to "multiple companies about possible entitlement," and IMS President Doug Boles confirmed that Angie's List "wasn't in the hunt six months ago." But Boles said the company "had a blast" at May's inaugural GP, and the sponsorship "came out of that experience." Cavin notes the deal gives IMS a title sponsor for "three of its four racing events, with Crown Royal backing NASCAR's Brickyard 400 in July and Red Bull key to MotoGP's Indianapolis Grand Prix in August." However, there are "no plans for a sweep of the races as the Indianapolis 500 will remain a name unto itself" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 6/4).
Virginia-based nonprofit Common Ground Alliance "paid $30,000 to have its 'Call 811' logo emblazoned down the right pant leg" of California Chrome jockey Victor Espinoza during the Kentucky Derby, and "after appealing to its members, it was able to secure $89,000 to keep the Chrome placement" through the Preakness and Belmont Stakes, according to Christopher Heine of ADWEEK. The CGA, which "works with dedicated call centers in every state, advising people to beware of old pipes and wires before digging in the dirt," also has "enlisted local chapters and corporate partners including Shell and 3M to create social buzz around Call 811." Espinoza yesterday participated in a "tweet-up to push the sponsor’s cause and to chat with fans" about what could be a historic Belmont Stakes where California Chrome could become the first Triple Crown winner since '78. NASCAR drivers Greg Biffle and Joey Logano, whose Sprint Cup teams are partially sponsored by the CGA, also were on board to "tweet questions with the hashtag #811chromie to Espinoza during the tweet-up in an effort to stoke the social fire." CGA VP/Communications Khrysanne Kerr said of the California Chrome sponsorship, "Our metrics have been off the chain." She added that the organization saw Google searches up 50% "after the Preakness, and that at 7 a.m. the Monday after the race, its Indiana call center had 101 calls waiting in the queue" (ADWEEK.com, 6/1).