The National Hockey League (NHL) has signed McDonald's USA to a one-year agreement that makes the company the league's lead partner in the U.S. As part of this agreement, McDonald's has secured the position of title sponsor for Hockey Day In America -- a six-hour special on NBC that combines games with documentary features about the sport. McDonald's will also sponsor the 2011 NHL All-Star Game in Raleigh, N.C.
The inaugural "Hockey Day in America" program on Feb. 20 comprises four NHL games at Millennium Park's outdoor ice rink in Chicago, and NBC-produced features about hockey culture in the U.S. The special has features on such topics as OCD hockey parents, "celebrity" hockey played by actors and producers in Los Angeles, and inner-city hockey in Washington, D.C.
As part of the "Hockey Day" program, NBC Sports will broadcast four NHL games featuring eight teams chosen from the most fervent U.S. hockey markets. The first three will be broadcast regionally with staggered starts. The fourth game, the Pittsburgh Penguins playing at Chicago, will be broadcast nationally. The league says all games will be streamed live on NBCSports.com.
McDonald's will also support NHL Network and NHL.com, and will make a media commitment to NBC and Versus game broadcasts. An NHL spokesperson says McDonald's will have a traditional media buy on NHL Network, as well as prominent placement with "Hockey Day In America Presented by McDonald's" on NHL.com.
The spokesperson adds that McDonald's signed on as a U.S. partner of NHL in the 2008-09 season, and was for 15 years a partner in Canada, a stint that ran through last season. Hockey Day in America' is the big differentiator this year," says the spokesperson. "Being the presenting sponsor for a six-hour hockey broadcast on network television in the United States takes this partnership to the next level in terms of exposure."
Earlier this season, McDonald's activated around the 2010 NHL Compuware Premiere games in Helsinki, Prague and Stockholm, and the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.
As part of its support of the NHL All-Star Game in Raleigh, McDonald's will sponsor a "Kid Zone" at NHL Fan Fair including a program called "In the Lineup" where 12 young hockey players can meet and stand alongside the NHL All-Stars on the ice before the game begins. McDonald's also will be the presenting sponsor of the Accuracy Shooting contest at this year's Honda NHL SuperSkills Competition.
Downturn notwithstanding, McDonald's sustained its sponsorship activity in 2009 and 2010. The company, which has backed the Olympics since 1968 (when it famously flew hamburgers to American athletes competing in the Grenoble, France Olympics), signed an eight-year deal with the International Olympic Committee in 2004. That deal made the chain exclusive restaurant and food service category sponsor of the Olympics. The deal, which runs through next year's London Olympics, gives the company use of the Olympic rings in global marketing and sponsorship opportunities with Olympic teams worldwide.
Last year, McDonald's sponsored the NFL's Pro Bowl all-star game, a deal that put the golden arches on LED boards at the stadium, and allowed the company to market its Mac Snack Wrap at the Super Bowl Fan Zone at South Beach in Miami, where the game was played. And the company was official sponsor of the FIFA 2010 World Cup in South Africa.