The National Hockey League (NHL) has signed a seven-year deal with Molson Coors in Canada and MillerCoors in the U.S., giving flagship brand Molson Canadian exclusive League rights in the beer sponsorship category. The deal gives Molson rights to the Official Beer of the NHL designation, beginning July 1, with the 2011-12 NHL season.
The partnership makes Molson Canadian the official beer of the NHL Face-Off, NHL Winter Classic, NHL Heritage Classic, and NHL All-Star. Molson also gets promotional opportunities around the Stanley Cup. Molson, which sponsors a number of NHL clubs, also gets media opportunities on NHL.com, NHL Network, NHL Mobile and NHL Social.
While Molson Canadian will be the lead brand on the NHL alliance in both countries, Coors Light will share some of the sponsorship assets in the U.S. and Canada.
John Collins, NHL chief operating officer, tells Marketing Daily that the size and scope of the deal makes it groundbreaking for the league, and that it is also a harbinger of things to come. "Its length and significance from a monetary standpoint was possible because there was real shared vision in terms of how the NHL will continue with the momentum we have built up with our plans for growth and platforms we will introduce," he says.
Such deals have become possible because of the league's focus on top-tier brand building. "Over the last four years we have been emphasizing bringing a national scale to what has become a $2.9 billion business," Collins says. "During that time we have tried to emphasize big-scale events like the NHL All-Star Game, the NHL Heritage Classic, our awards show in Las Vegas -- all of which activate fans to a higher level." In addition to serving as national platforms celebrating hockey, they allow corporate partners to activate against that fan base.
"These big events have created spikes in interest in a long season and allowed fans to rally around them," says Collins. "Whether it's the NHL Winter Classic in Pittsburgh [Bridgestone had title sponsorship of that] or the Heritage Classic in Calgary this past weekend, they create lots of enthusiasm among fans and enthusiasm from corporate partners." He says about 75% of total inventory over the last three big NHL events, which occurred during the last 50 days, was picked up by NHL corporate partners.
"The other pillar to our strategy is digital media, and again it's designed to serve the fans and activate the fan base. And we are aggressive in expanding our efforts in mobile media and tablet platforms. We have been at this for four years and the results are really strong," he says.