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Volume 23 No. 13
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William Hill lines up first sponsor deal

T-Mobile Arena’s ribbon boards will show the sportsbook’s logo during live action.
Photo: Getty Images
T-Mobile Arena’s ribbon boards will show the sportsbook’s logo during live action.
Photo: Getty Images
T-Mobile Arena’s ribbon boards will show the sportsbook’s logo during live action.
Photo: Getty Images

When the CEO of sportsbook William Hill U.S. suggested that the Vegas Golden Knights allow his company to sponsor on-ice line changes as part of the first team deal signed in the promising new category, executives from the franchise immediately were smitten by the idea.

The “William Hill Line Change” offers a clever play on a phrase common to both hockey and sports betting, tying the new sponsor to the sport in an authentic way. It also integrates the sportsbook into the game as a brand play, avoiding any “call to action” message, as mandated by the NHL’s guidelines for the new, and potentially controversial, category.

Even in Las Vegas, where sports betting has been legal since 1931, the Golden Knights wanted to be careful not to connect the action in the game too closely to action on the game.

“I don’t think people are going to leave the arena and say, ‘Boy, all the Golden Knights are doing is talking about sports betting,’” said Jim Frevola, the team’s senior vice president and chief sales officer. “It’s going to come in the natural flow of our game.”

The deal, which was approved by the league last week, calls for William Hill to receive exposure through means common for team sponsors: Logo placement on the dasher boards, scoreboard and ribbon board at T-Mobile Arena; rotating banner ads on the team website; and commercial spots during radio broadcasts. William Hill also will present in-game odds from around the NHL that will be posted on the scoreboard between periods, a practice the league prohibited last season.

But the most intriguing aspect may be the sponsored line change. Once per period, the William Hill logo will appear on the ribbon board when the Golden Knights change lines on the fly. That line change also will be pegged to William Hill on radio broadcasts, and on TV broadcasts if the sportsbook can come to terms with rights holder AT&T SportsNet.

Though fans were able to bet on hockey and other sports using mobile apps at Golden Knights games last season, this will be the first time the team is able to acknowledge that, and benefit from it financially.

“We hope people will be sitting at T-Mobile and betting between periods,” said William Hill U.S. CEO Joe Asher. “Frankly, we know they do that already. We’re hoping to be able to get more people to our site because the brand will be right there in front of them.”

It’s no coincidence that the groundbreaking deal came in the only league with teams in both Nevada and New Jersey. The New Jersey Devils almost certainly will be the next to land a sponsor in the category.