NHL Global Fan Tour goes to Europe
After finding success traversing North America with a traveling fan tour during its centennial season in 2016-17, the NHL is hoping for the same result when it embarks on a slate of games in Europe starting next week.
The NHL Global Fan Tour will make six stops across Germany, Sweden and Switzerland, all countries that will host NHL exhibition and regular-season games in the month ahead. The tour begins in Nuremberg, Germany, on Sept. 22, followed by stops in Bern, Switzerland; Cologne, Germany; Gothenburg, Sweden; and Berlin, wrapping up on Oct. 13.
The tour will include a variety of hockey- and NHL-themed attractions, including an interactive museum that features the Stanley Cup and an exhibit from the Hockey Hall of Fame highlighted by memorabilia from notable European-born NHL players. Similar to the North American tour, the European tour also will feature a variety of games where fans can test their hockey skills.
Jaka Lednik, NHL group vice president of international strategy, said the league is looking to more deeply engage with overseas fans.
“For European fans, they can see our games on TV during the week, there are official NHL websites dedicated to the fans there in different languages, and we have games again in Europe,” said Lednik, who joined the league last year after working at the Boston Consulting Group. “But what we really want to do over the next couple of years is help them engage with the NHL in ways that North American fans can as well and help them get a bit closer to the action.”
Lednik noted that the league is looking at the European tour as a pilot program but has high hopes for stops in markets it thinks are already ripe with NHL fandom.
“We really want to find out what our fans in Europe are interested in seeing — is it about the history of the league and the teams? Is it to get to know the players better? Is it simply about getting a stick in their hands and letting them play?” Lednik said. “We know they’ve had ways to engage with the NHL in the past. Now it’s about introducing more touchpoints and more frequency.”
The European tour also will allow the NHL to engage more deeply with some of its global partners, as well as letting new European-based companies get a glimpse of the league’s reach.
Existing NHL global partners Adidas, Apple, EA Sports, ORG Packaging and SAP are all expected to be featured during the European tour, while Upper Deck will provide fans with customized cards. In addition, energy drink company Nocco will sponsor the tour and do sampling of its drinks at stops, and Hankook Tire also will activate along the tour. The NHL’s deal with Bridgestone gives it exclusive tire rights in North America.
Mark Black, NHL vice president of international operations, said that it’s also a pilot tour for the league in terms of activating in Europe, where there have been few prior efforts. “We’re learning more about the markets we’re going to be doing the tour in — for example, there are different guidelines that we need to understand what we’re allowed to do and what fans want us to do,” Black said.
Lednik said that given this is the first iteration of this tour, the league will base its success off several measurements, including social discussion around the stops, how sponsors react to the engagement, actual foot traffic and the ability for the event to also help deepen the connection to the sport as well as with local federations and teams in the cities. The NHL is funding the tour and worked with M&C Saatchi on its development. The league declined to comment on the cost of the endeavor.