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Volume 21 No. 1
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NHL sponsors' playoff activation offers winners some quality time with the Stanley Cup

Stanley Cup playoff activation spending is up 30 percent this year, according to the NHL, with 13 of the league’s corporate partners running sweepstakes that award free tickets, products or VIP access to fans.

Brian Jennings, NHL executive vice president of marketing, said the sweepstakes model is standard for the NHL’s two-month playoff period but that partners have increased their use of social media and access to the Stanley Cup for 2011.

“You’re looking at mid-April through June, and that’s a fairly decent period of time to execute a campaign,” Jennings said.

Bridgestone, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Starwood Hotels will award Stanley Cup Final tickets in contests that they are holding in the United States and Canada. Anheuser-Busch and Discover Card will award tickets to the finals to U.S. customers. Energizer, Hershey’s, Canadian Tire, Labatt, LG Electronics, Pepsi, Scotiabank and Visa will award finals tickets to Canadian customers.

Phil Pacsi, vice president of consumer marketing at Bridgestone, said that sweepstakes and ticket giveaways work well during the playoffs because fans’ increased engagement with the sport extends over several weeks.

“It’s a long season, and right now there is a heightened awareness of hockey,” Pacsi said. “We step up our advertising during the playoffs. There is a hockey frenzy.”

Pacsi said the playoffs represent Bridgestone’s second most important hockey property, behind the Winter Classic. This year, Bridgestone will award its Mark Messier Youth Leadership and NHL Leadership awards during Game 3 of the finals. For the first award, fans apply and vote online for a youth hockey player who exhibits leadership qualities.

New partner Discover Card also is focusing on youth hockey, running a sweepstakes on Facebook in which fans submit and vote on videos shot by youth hockey players. The winner receives a presentation during Game 2 of the finals and will spend a day with the Stanley Cup.

Pepsi’s Canadian campaign solicits the “best Stanley Cup playoff moment” from fans, and awards a guest appearance by the Cup at the winner’s house. Hershey’s will award a private Cup appearance based on UPC codes being submitted online.