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NHL readies Stanley Cup push

The National Hockey League (NHL) is gearing up for a massive marketing push to coincide with Stanley Cup Finals, which could begin as early as next week

Intended to push team-branded Stanley Cup gear, such as hats, T-shirts and coolers, the campaign includes a mix of DRTV, online, radio spots, direct e-mail, print and streaming video. Much of the work will be produced in-house by the NHL’s marketing team, though Y&R has been helping the league with branding. The first leg of the Stanley Cup campaign could be a pre-sell which begins as soon as two conference champions are named — pending approval by participating teams.

Perry Cooper, VP of NHL Direct, said that the pre-sell is meant to drive three data points: “One is pure awareness because once the pre-sell is done you’ve really softened the audience and can capitalize on that awareness when you have a champion. The second piece is creating an incremental sale. We’re giving fans the ability to buy right then and be among the first to get a championship product once it goes live, so that satisfies their needs to get in immediately and drives engagement when it comes to the viewing aspect. Third, it really starts to set the futures market for us, so we can watch on a ratio basis how each team is selling.”

Pre-sells also help the company fill its fan database with information like team preferences and e-mail addresses, which will be used for direct campaigns going into next season.

Ads for Stanley Cup gear include a 30-second DRTV spot with an online call to action, which will run on the NHL network immediately following the championship win. The ad will be repurposed to run in a broadband player as a 15-second spot, and radio and XM radio will also feature ads. A series of e-mails to the NHL fan database will tout the pre-sale and follow-up with targeted, team-based offers.

Media relationships with brands like Sports Illustrated will be used to build awareness and gain click-throughs to the store, as will ads on individual team sites.

The campaign will focus heavily on driving fans to the store site, rather than an 800 number, and much of the advertising will take place online. Cooper explained that NHL fans score very high on technographics such as broadband penetration and HD affinity, so an online campaign made sense.

“We are seeing increased activity and traffic on NHL.com and NHLNetwork.com, so being able to leverage a bigger audience than ever is critical for us and a new great opportunity,” Cooper pointed out. “And from a merchandising standpoint, the assortment that we have is very wide and deep; it’s a microsite, a Stanley Cup championship store.

Cooper also noted that the four teams in contention for the Cup at press time — the Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins, Dallas Stars and Philadelphia Flyers — are some of the top-selling teams in the league.

The strongest marketing push for Stanley Cup merchandise will take place from the time the winner is decided until about three days after. The gear will be offered through the holiday season, and a key goal for the NHL marketing team is to sell through all of its merchandise.

Directly following this Stanley Cup push, the NHL will launch a campaign hyping its entry draft and merchandising a “draft hat.”

“We’re just setting the groundwork and framework for more team targeting, so we’re becoming more relevant to fans with one-to-one and database marketing,” Cooper said. “Leveraging that displaced fan piece is very important to us, so we’re examining our segmentation and making sure that it is positioned for us to be more relevant and strategically sound. September comes around real fast.”

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