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Volume 21 No. 34
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NHL opens new sponsor inventory in the ice

The NHL will add four new in-ice advertising positions at all games starting next season, the first new pieces of inventory the league has added inside the rink since the 1990s.

 

The four new positions will be in each of the rink corners. The NHL tested the positions during its exhibition games in China prior to this season, and at the 2018 All-Star Game in Tampa.

Currently, there are four in-ice advertising positions during NHL games, located near the neutral zone faceoff dots. Those positions are restricted to an area no greater than 81 square feet. The new logos will be no more than 44 square feet. The NHL also features advertising along the dasherboards, which it has allowed since 1978. Roughly 20 to 22 of those positions are visible on a television broadcast.

Starting with the 2018-19 season, all 31 NHL teams will have the ability to sell each of the four new positions for preseason and regular-season games. For playoff games, the NHL will take control of the new positions, with the teams continuing to control the four around center ice.

NHL Chief Revenue Officer Keith Wachtel said that doing so for the roughly 90 postseason games a year would allow the league to sell what it views as a “global media opportunity with tremendous brand awareness.”

“With the success that our clubs are seeing in their local markets, they’ve run out of valuable inventory,” Wachtel said. “We see this as some of the most valuable real estate in all of sports.”

The league estimates that each spot will have about 20 to 25 minutes of exposure during every game. Given that, Wachtel said he expects these positions could provide the teams with up to eight figures of incremental revenue per season, while the NHL’s ability to sell the positions during the playoffs will provide the league a similar amount. Wachtel noted that typically, the four partners that have the existing in-ice positions at the local level are the highest revenue-generating partnerships for teams outside of naming-rights deals.

Ron Skotarczak, executive vice president of marketing partnerships for The Madison Square Garden Co., said the new positions are a potential low seven-digit pure incremental opportunity, noting that the company would be able to offer the new opportunities to existing partners or to the open market. He credited Wachtel and the league for its aggressive approach “in trying new things.”

Michael Neuman, executive vice president and managing partner of Scout Sports and Entertainment, which handles Geico’s NHL league and teams deals, said he believes marketers will view these new positions as very valuable.

“It shows that the NHL is thinking creatively about how they’re going to generate new revenue with the new pressures to find alternative pieces of real estate that all leagues are facing right now,” he said.

Philadelphia Flyers Chief Operating Officer Shawn Tilger said the opportunity for the team to build bigger deals at a “founding partner” as a result of this new inventory, like it is able to do with its other four existing spots, will be a boon to its sponsorship revenue.

“It’s going to serve as an asset that may allow you to cultivate an existing sponsor into a bigger relationship, or an asset that tracks one of the bigger partners out there that’s not yet on board,” Tilger said.

MKTG Canada President and CEO Brian Cooper said that while he credits the league for creating a new piece of inventory in an area of the ice that is very visible, he is interested to see how the positions are shown on television during live games.

Wachtel said that he and the league are very bullish on the value of these positions, and fielding feedback during its test runs. The league has not yet signed any partnerships for these positions for next year’s playoffs. Despite the new inventory, he stressed the NHL does not want to imitate European hockey leagues, which cover their surfaces with advertising.

“We looked at what would be tastefully done while also driving additional partnerships and revenue,” Wachtel said.