By Barry Janoff
September 12, 2016: When the World Cup of Hockey begins on Sept. 17, under the auspices of the NHL and the NHL Players' Assn., it won't just feature many of the best hockey players in the world.
It will also include a roster of top-flight marketers that have put their brand names into what the NHL intends to be an event that will impact fans and consumers with many of the touch-points seen at the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup.
"The caliber of these partners shows the enthusiastic response for the World Cup of Hockey 2016," said Kyle McMann, group vp-integrated sales for the NHL. "The World Cup of Hockey has provided us the opportunity to both deepen our relationship with many longstanding NHL partners, while also serving as a catalyst for several brand new relationships.
Among the companies attached to the two-week event are Air Canada, AutoTrader.ca, Canadian Tire, EA, Esso/Exxon Mobil, Geico, Honda, Molson Coors, PepsiCo, Pizza Pizza, Rogers Communications SAP, Scotiabank, Sonnet, Ticketmaster, Tim Hortons, Upper Deck and Visa.
In addition, this will be the first NHL-related international exposure for adidas under its new deal, which takes over from its own division, Reebok, as the official outfitter for the NHL via a seven-year pact beginning with the 2017 season. The deal included outfitting all eight teams in the World Cup.
In another first, SAP will be the official sponsor of every team jersey, with a logo patch on the right shoulder of all jerseys.
The World Cup also becomes ESPN's first significant NHL event coverage in about a dozen years.
The self-proclaimed "Worldwide Leader in Sports" broadcast NHL games from 1992-2004, but the league moved its U.S. coverage to the former Outdoor Life Network, which eventually became part of NBC Sports Network, where it remains.
All coverage on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNEWS will also be available to stream live on WatchESPN across computers, smartphones, tablets and connected devices via an affiliated video provider.
"I have been with ESPN so long and was with ESPN when we had the contract. And, you know, when it was taken away from us, we lost it, it changed things drastically for ESPN," said Barry Melrose, former NHL player and coach and for more than a dozen years lead NHL analyst for ESPN, during a media conference call on Friday.
"What a marketing time for the NHL," said Melrose. "If you’re trying to sell your product, there’s no better time ever than what’s going to be happening in the next three weeks in Toronto.
"The games are going to sell themselves. The games are going to be fantastic. The athletes will see to that. But it’s just a great chance for everybody, ESPN, NHL, Players Assn., everybody, to have a great time selling what they sell and helping their brand name," he said.
ESPN said that its start-to-finish, multi-platform World Cup of Hockey 2016 coverage would "provide all the angles on and off the ice through innovative production techniques, top-tier commentary, creative enhancements and studio programming surrounding the games.
ESPN will also debut an animation package that will be seen before each World Cup of Hockey 2016 telecast.
The design and animation language, created by an in-house team, "takes an abstract view of both the sport and team, framing them in a world of title sequences with a balance of mystery, drama, and action," according to ESPN.
Will that be enough to attract not just hard-core hockey fans but also casual and non-fans, especial considering the sporadic nature of the event. While the Summer Olympics and FIFA World Cup are held every four years, the World Cup of Hockey was first held in 1996 and most recently in 2004.
"We’re not really trying to get the mainstream fan. We’ve got those guys," said Melrose. "The hockey fan is going to be watching, whether it’s on our air or NBC or CBS or whoever has got hockey. The real hockey fans are going to be watching that game.
"What we hope to be able to grab with ESPN, and I think what the Players Assn. and NHL hope, is maybe a fan that’s watching a football game or a baseball game or a soccer game that time with ESPN, and all of a sudden they come across a hockey game on ESPN. Because you have got to remember, hockey hasn’t been on ESPN for basically 12 years. So maybe we’ll be able grab some of those fans that are not used to seeing hockey on ESPN."
According to Melrose, "When you’ve got the greatest players in the world, all over the world, playing in one period of time, basically two weeks, in a major, major city in North America, what a place to market your product. You’re going to have events every night, you’re going to have games every night, you’re going to have practices all day long, you’ve got private boxes (and) the Jays are going to be in town playing the Yankees."
During the two-week tournament, partners will support with multi-platform marketing, including, TV, print, Internet, social media, in-arena and in the Scotiabank World Cup of Hockey Fan Village, a free, ten-day fan festival in Toronto's historic Distillery District (Sept.16-25).
The Scotiabank World Cup of Hockey Fan Village is scheduled to offer activities including the Pepsi Premiere Party, which will feature the red carpet arrivals of the players competing in the tournament; live music on the Pepsi Live Main Stage, including The Killers and Green Day; the Molson Canadian Hockey House; the Scotiabank Virtual Arena and Sport Pad; food offerings from each of the participating tournament countries; visits from players; and the World Cup of Hockey Trophy and uniforms and the Stanley Cup.
According to Keith Leach, senior director NHL, the adidas Group, "We took iconic emblems from each of the participating teams to create jerseys that honor the traditions of each nation and fused those with an emphasis on technical design for elite performance on the ice.
"Adidas is committed to designing and developing high-performance products that make athletes better and we look forward to outfitting the World Cup of Hockey in our newest and most innovative uniforms."
Another major question in play: Will great marketing success and fan response during the World Cup be the final motivation for the NHL not to participate in the Winter Olympics? The league and Players' Assn. were reticent to send players to the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia; and seem less inclined to do so for the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, due to logistics, politics, finances and other issues.
"What a marketing time for the NHL. If you’re trying to sell your product, there’s no better time ever than what’s going to be happening in Toronto."
The World Cup of Hockey 2020 is already being planned, with the NHL saying that it is "committed to multiple tournaments on a regular schedule."
The NHL and NHLPA have until January 2017 to commit to the next Winter Games.
The 2016 World Cup of Hockey begins Sept. 17 and runs through best-of-three final Sept. 29-Oct. 1. More more than 170 NHL players will play for their national teams, representing Team Canada, Team Czech Republic, Team Europe, Team Finland, Team North America, Team Russia, Team Sweden and Team USA.
All games will be played at Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
"For the NHL when you get another dog in the fight, (when) you have another organization trying to get NHL games, that’s great for everybody in the hockey world," said Melrose.
"Hockey is the greatest sport in the world, and great hockey is better than good hockey and we’re going to see some of the greatest hockey that we’ve ever seen. It’s going to be fantastic and I think it’s going to be great for hockey having it back on ESPN. I know all of us at ESPN happy to have it back on the air," said Melrose.
World Cup of Hockey Schedule
Group Play: USA vs. Europe
Group Play: Czech Republic vs. Canada
Group Play: Sweden vs. Russia
Group Play: North America vs. Finland
Group Play: Europe vs. Czech Republic
Group Play: Russia vs. North America
Group Play: Finland vs. Sweden
Group Play: Canada vs. USA
Group Play: North America vs. Sweden
Group Play: Europe vs Canada
Group Play: Finland vs. Russia
Group Play: USA vs. Czech Republic
Final: Game One
Final: Game Two
Final: Game Three (if necessary)
Marketers Lace Up Skates For World Cup Of Hockey
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