Hockey’s partners put up historic stats
NHL sponsors scored a hat trick in the league’s 11th annual Sponsor Loyalty study, fielded recently for SportsBusiness Journal by Turnkey Sports & Entertainment.
Goal No. 1: For the second year in a row, NHL fans knew who the league’s official partners were in all 10 of the categories measured.
Goal No. 2: The official partner in each category enjoyed its highest overall recognition level in the history of the league’s survey.
And goal No. 3: 47 percent of the 400 fans surveyed correctly identified Gatorade as the league’s official sports drink, the highest recognition rate any NHL partner has ever received.
|Gatorade’s recognition rate as a sponsor, 47 percent, was the best ever for an NHL partner.
Gatorade has been a league sponsor since 2006, and the surge in its recognition level coincided with a season that saw the brand increase its advertising presence during hockey telecasts. Gatorade spent $4 million advertising during NHL telecasts last season, according to data from iSpot.tv, up 150 percent compared with the 2015-16 season. Its activation included a spot called “Patrick Kane’s Smooth Finish” featuring the Chicago Blackhawks star, which debuted in April and ran 2,451 times during the playoffs.
The PepsiCo brand also continued to benefit from its 13-year relationship with Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby, whom Gatorade signed when he was 16 years old. Crosby gave the brand significant exposure when he participated in the All-Star Game’s ancillary festivities for the first time since 2007, including the Gatorade NHL Skills Challenge Relay. He also helped guide the Penguins to their second straight Stanley Cup championship.
Gatorade replaced Bridgestone as the league’s most recognized brand.
The isotonic wasn’t the only brand under the PepsiCo umbrella to fare well in the study: 40 percent of fans also knew Pepsi was the league’s official soda. That rate is nearly double what it was following the 2006-07 season, which not only was Pepsi’s first season as a league sponsor but also when we fielded our first Sponsor Loyalty study.
Since then, Pepsi’s hockey deal has become as recognized as its NFL partnership, which dates to 2002 (see chart).
Like Gatorade, Honda saw a big jump in awareness levels during a season when the brand significantly increased its ad spending.
Thirty-one percent of fans knew that Honda is the league’s exclusive automotive sponsor. That recognition level is double what the carmaker received in the survey fielded after the 2008-09 regular season, Honda’s first as a sponsor.
|Honda has seen a big jump in awareness levels since increasing its ad spending.
Last season, Honda spent $27.3 million to advertise during NHL programming, 60 percent more than it spent during the 2015-16 season. Hockey represented 10 percent of the brand’s total TV ad spend last season, versus 7.5 percent during the same eight-month span a year earlier. The company title-sponsored the All-Star Game for the third year in a row and presented a 2017 Ridgeline truck to Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds, the game’s MVP. In conjunction with the game, Honda also put its name on the Honda Four Line Challenge, a new Skills Competition event.
Additionally, the Honda Center, home of the Anaheim Ducks, hosted nine nationally televised playoff games, compared with just four postseason games in 2016.
The 2017 survey was conducted May 18-23, a period that coincided with the NHL conference finals. The 2015 and 2016 surveys were fielded during similar points in those postseasons.
Respondents were analyzed based on their avidity levels. “Avid” fans are those who responded “4” or “5” to the question “How big a fan are you of the NHL?” and claimed to “look up news, scores and standings several times a week or more often,” “watch/listen/attend at least 10 games per season” and “have a favorite team.” Fans categorized as “casual” responded “3” to the same initial question, then claimed to “look up news, scores and standings several times a month or more often,” “watch/listen/attend at least 3 games per season” and “have a favorite team.”
When asked to identify official sponsors, respondents selected from a field of brands that was provided to them for each business sector. Only the top-scoring companies and brands are listed in the results published here. The percentage responses listed have been rounded. The margin of error for the surveys is +/- 4 percent.
Turnkey Intelligence performs research for more than 70 North American major league teams, league offices and brands. More than one-third of the NHL’s teams are among Turnkey’s clients.
What Brands Do NHL Fans Consider Buying?
To Read: 72 percent of NHL fans said they would be more likely to consider buying the NHL's official beer sponsor if they knew which brand had that designation. The rate decreased to 26 percent when considering only those NHL fans who did not know that Coors Light holds that partnership distinction as one of the brands of NHL sponsor Molson Coors Brewing Co.
|CATEGORY (NHL SPONSOR)||AMONG ALL NHL FANS||AMONG NHL FANS WHO DID NOT CORRECTLY IDENTIFY THE SPONSOR||DIFFERENCE|
|Beer (Coors Light*)||72%||26%||+46 pct. points|
|Tire (Bridgestone)||80%||41%||+39 pct. points|
|Rental car (Enterprise)||76%||40%||+36 pct. points|
|Credit card (Discover**)||55%||23%||+32 pct. points|
|Sports/energy drink (Gatorade)||86%||56%||+30 pct. points|
|Quick-service restaurant (McDonald's)||86%||56%||+30 pct. points|
|Automotive (Honda)||63%||33%||+30 pct. points|
|Soft drink (Pepsi)||78%||49%||+29 pct. points|
|Insurance (Geico)||67%||38%||+29 pct. points|
|Hotel (Westin^)||40%||21%||+19 pct. points|
What Brands Do Fans Think Are NHL Sponsors?
To read: 55 percent of NHL fans said they think Gatorade should be an NHL sponsor, compared with 20 percent who think Powerade should have an NHL deal. Those numbers became 66 percent and 18 percent, respectively, when considering only those NHL fans who correctly knew that Gatorade is the NHL's official sponsor in the isotonic beverage category.
|AMONG ALL NHL FANS||AMONG NHL FANS WHO CORRECTLY IDENTIFIED THE SPONSOR|
|NHL SPONSOR/COMPETITOR||RESPONSE RATES||DIFFERENCE||RESPONSE RATES||DIFFERENCE|
|Gatorade/Powerade||55% / 20%||+35 pct. points||66% / 18%||+46 pct. points|
|McDonald's/Wendy's||63% / 33%||+30 pct. points||78% / 31%||+39 pct. points|
|Geico/Allstate||42% / 26%||+16 pct. points||60% / 26%||+36 pct. points|
|Bridgestone/Michelin||38% / 36%||+2 pct. points||58% / 27%||+32 pct. points|
|Enterprise/Hertz||29% / 22%||+7 pct. points||46% / 17%||+30 pct. points|
|Honda/Ford||38% / 42%||-4 pct. points||55% / 35%||+30 pct. points|
|Westin^/Wyndham||13% / 11%||+2 pct. points||40% / 20%||+30 pct. points|
|Discover/Visa**||25% / 62%||-37 pct. points||40% / 55%||+29 pct. points|
|Coors*/Bud Light||26% / 33%||-7 pct. points||53% / 40%||+29 pct. points|
|Pepsi/Coca-Cola||51% / 66%||-15 pct. points||66% / 65%||+19 pct. points|
Notes: Fans could select both the official sponsor and the competitor if they chose to do so. The one specific competing company listed was selected by Turnkey for consideration in the survey file.
* As part of the NHL's Molson Coors partnership, Coors Light and Molson Canadian are both considered official beers of the NHL in North America, but Molson was not part of this survey.
** Discover holds the category rights in the United States; Visa holds the rights in Canada.
^ Westin is one of the brands of NHL partner Starwood Hotels & Resorts.
Impact on Sampling and Support
Are you more or less likely to consider trying a product/service if that product/service is an official sponsor of the NHL?
|Unaffected or less likely||33.2%||52.2%||48.5%||34.3%||60.2%||66.0%|
Are you more or less likely to consciously support a company by purchasing its products/services if the company is an official sponsor of the NHL?
|Unaffected or less likely||30.6%||51.2%||46.0%||35.3%||64.2%||65.0%|
Are you more or less likely to recommend a product/service to a friend or family member if that product/service is an official sponsor of the NHL?
|Unaffected or less likely||30.1%||55.8%||45.5%||37.3%||70.2%||66.0%|
Which of the following is an official sponsor of the NHL?