Marketing for any professional sports league presents the challenge of finding ways to keep fans engaged and talking about their teams during the course of a long season. However, when the playoffs arrive, each league has the opportunity to capitalize on the urgency and optimism provided by the race toward a championship. The NHL established the “Because It’s The Cup” tagline in 2012 in an effort to highlight the things teams, players and fans will do for the ultimate prize — Lord Stanley’s Cup. This year, the campaign has been simplified but still captures the excitement of the playoffs. The message has been distilled down to there being one goal that rises above all others.
The campaign includes four videos, each with a specific theme:
For the 2014 playoffs, NBC Sports has added new ways for fans to show their pride, passion and love for hockey. Using multiple platforms, NBC Sports has made it possible for fans around the country to get involved. One of the several ways social media has been utilized is through a mobile application called Magisto that allows fans to create edited movies showing how they celebrate with their team. Videos are showcased during the television broadcast and entered into a contest for prizes. In addition, fans can also submit videos and photos via Twitter, Instagram and Facebook using “#CelebrateStanley” and “#StanleyCup,” with tweets displayed throughout the games. Capitalizing on this social media integration, the league has also created a NHL on NBC All-Access Social Media Hub, a one-stop-shop for fans that provides access to information for the playoffs.
NBC Sports and Bouchon Bakery have also created a more delicious way to introduce fans to the NHL’s postseason format. The “Puck Cakes” are a way for fans to show support for the team with personalized cakes from a high-end eatery. Bouchon Bakery chef Thomas Keller says the inspiration for the puck cake was to capture the memory of a favorite childhood food, and the Puck Cake reminds him of flavors he enjoyed while rooting for his favorite team.
Additionally, NBC Sports, working with Civic Entertainment Group, recently launched a new playoff promotion called Home Ice Pops, which are popsicles made in the colors of one of four playoff teams. The ice cream truck has four stops, starting with Minneapolis and continuing to Chicago, Los Angeles and Anaheim. This is another way to promote the playoffs and attract more fans to the current hockey fan base.
Overall, the promotion and exposure of sponsors has increased at the franchise level during the playoffs as well. For example, the Los Angeles Kings have five playoff presenting sponsors — McDonalds, Toyota, Verizon, Mercury Insurance and Travel Alberta — and all will be taking a leading role during the postseason, increasing their exposure in the arena and association with the team. Social media is also a very important channel locally with fans using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and team apps to make and share photos and videos from the game, at home watching, or with friends. Tweets are often posted during the games, encouraging fans to get involved and show their support. The Kings marketing department has seen this as an important factor with their fan base; giving the fans the chance to post their videos and photos has been a real success for the Kings. The Kings’ multimedia page shows the many outlets for fans to be involved and engaged with Twitter, Facebook, the Kings mobile app, Kings Vision, Youtube, Instagram and VIP news emails.
NBC Sports and the NHL have hit all the right notes so far and have experienced increased ratings for the opening round of the playoffs as a result, with an average increase of 35 percent compared to last year’s opening round. By capitalizing on social media outlets and fan giveaways, fans feel more engaged with the playoff atmosphere while also being rewarded for their efforts. All because it’s The Cup.