Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 10/02/06 at 01:16 PM ET
“A lot of the corporate community was interested in seeing how last season went first,” said NHL Enterprises President Ed Horne. “They wanted to see if our fans would come back, and they came back stronger than some of them anticipated.” The NHL was able to sign on some new marketing blood in the offseason. Gatorade and Pepsi, brands renowned for activating sports sponsorships, replaced Powerade, an NHL sponsor since 1997, and Coke, a sponsor since 1989. While it’s still finalizing the supporting media buys, Verizon Wireless is replacing Sprint Nextel as the cellular service sponsor. Anheuser-Busch, an NHL sponsor since 1994, is finalizing a two-year renewal of its U.S. rights. While a new deal with over-the-counter medication Cold-fX won’t add much to the league’s coffers, it will add some activation. Nationally, the NHL has always been sold on its youthful and upscale demos, relative to other sports. While that’s still true, the new pitch also for the NHL is a combination of “better than ever” and “invest at the ground floor.” Or as Horne put it, “We have a stable fan base, more so than at any time in the recent past. So it’s an opportunity to attach your brand to a growth stock.” Still, when attracting “investors,” the league will have to explain the value of its Versus (formerly OLN) cable broadcasts, down 60 percent from the ESPN/ESPN2 combination in the 2003-04 regular season. The Versus deal was signed only a month before last season began.
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