NHL sells naming rights to divisions
The National Hockey League is expanding its efforts to develop new revenue streams for the pandemic-shortened 2021 season, announcing Tuesday that each of its four divisions will be sponsored for the coming season.
The Bank of Nova Scotia landed prime real estate, sponsoring the North Division, which will feature all seven Canadian teams thanks to realignment spurred by cross-border travel restrictions.
The announcement is not the first visible branding push the league has embarked on for the coming season, after it rolled out company ads on team helmets for the first time in its history. That deal could net the league as much as $15 million, according to TSN.ca Senior Correspondent Rick Westhead.
One sports marketing expert says that kind of placement is massive for the companies able to partner up with NHL clubs.
“The players are constantly on camera, in focus. It’s the best and easiest way to get that extreme brand exposure,” said Brian Cooper, president and CEO of sports marketing firm MKTG Canada and a former vice-president of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd., which owns the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs.
“For those that have invested in hockey, this is sort of the pièce de résistance of branding opportunity.”
Scotiabank has landed two such opportunities in addition to its divisional plug, securing the on-helmet branding rights for the Leafs and the Calgary Flames.
Other Canadian companies have jumped on the helmet opportunity: The Montreal Canadiens announced last month that Bell’s logo will be on its players’ helmets this season. And photos from the Winnipeg Jets’ training camp have shown Bell logos on player helmets, although no formal announcement has been made by that club.
The Vancouver Canucks, Ottawa Senators, and Edmonton Oilers have not yet shared any details on helmet partnerships. It’s worth noting that the aforementioned sponsorships align with existing deals for the teams’ home arenas.
For a bank like Scotia, which Cooper once dubbed “the bank of hockey,” the ability to get such prime real estate, in addition to hitching its wagon to an all-Canadian division, offers an offset to some of the lost visibility from not having fans in the arenas.
“You’ve got to realize, that the NHL has to make a lot of make-goods for brands that have long-term contracts with them,” Cooper said. “They’re not able to deliver the outdoor game, the All-Star Game, a lot of those things. So, in this case they are creating new inventory in some cases as make-goods.”
However, Cooper had his doubts about the durability of the Scotia NHL North Division moniker.
“I don’t think that’ll ever stick. This is a one-off related to COVID.”
BNN Bloomberg is a division of Bell Media, which is owned by BCE.