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Volume 20 No. 41
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Bruin’s ‘Advil moment’ leads to NHL deal

Editor's note: This story is revised from the print edition.

A soon-to-be-announced sponsorship agreement between the NHL and Pfizer to promote the Advil brand was inspired in part by a courageous shift by Boston Bruins forward Gregory Campbell during last season’s playoffs.

In Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final, Campbell slid across the ice to block a shot. Despite being in immense pain — he was diagnosed after the game with a broken leg — Campbell stayed on the ice to help his team kill a Pittsburgh Penguins power play.

Pfizer’s CMO watched the Bruins’ Gregory Campbell keep skating after breaking a leg during a playoff game in June.
Watching from a suite at TD Garden was Brian Groves, chief marketing officer in the U.S. for Pfizer Consumer Healthcare. As Campbell skated to the Bruins’ bench on one leg, Groves turned to Keith Wachtel, the NHL’s executive vice president of global partnerships, and said, “That was an Advil moment.”

“The sequence really had an impact,” Groves said last week. “Campbell stayed on the ice in excruciating pain so he could help his team. It resonated with us. We started thinking that pain relief, fast recovery and being there for others made the NHL a great fit for the Advil brand.”

After four months of negotiations, Groves and Wachtel recently put the finishing touches on a one-year agreement that is expected to be announced in the coming weeks. With the deal, the Advil brand becomes an official partner of the league and the official pain reliever of the NHL in North America.

Advil will have exposure at the 2014 Bridgestone Winter Classic, the four games that make up the 2014 Coors Light Stadium Series and the 2014 Tim Hortons Heritage Classic. That includes dasherboard ads and activation space at the fan festivals for these tent-pole events.

“Advil was especially interested in being part of our big events and the opportunity to activate in the local markets,” Wachtel said.

Advil also gains a presence on league-controlled properties like, NHL Network and NHL Social entities, as well as on NBC and NBC Sports Network telecasts of NHL games.

Although arrangements were yet to be finalized, Groves said Advil will use players in hockey-specific campaigns. “We’re signing up players — guys who are using Advil each and every day — and will do some fun and creative promotion with them,” he said.

Financial details of the sponsorship were not available. Negotiations were conducted directly between Pfizer executives and Wachtel’s sponsorship group at the NHL.

The deal is Advil’s first direct affiliation with a sports league in many years. Advil was the sponsor of the PGA Tour’s Western Open for three years, from 2000 to 2002, and MLB hall of famer Nolan Ryan was an Advil spokesman during the 1990s. Pfizer also dipped its toe in for a relationship with the NHL for Advil with a media buy with NBC for last season’s playoffs.