Sponsors in the Wake of the NHL Lockout

By Rick Horrow and Karla Swatek

January 11, 2013

Last Sunday, the National Hockey League ended a four-month, 113-day, and many hundreds of millions of dollars lockout. An abbreviated 48-game season is scheduled to begin on January 19.
After moving much of their NHL marketing budgets to other properties, sponsors and marketers are now reevaluating plans for the abbreviated season. In Canada, Kraft Foods, after canceling its popular “Hockeyville” promotion in November, committed to a new partnership with TSN called Kraft Hockey Goes On, rewarding hockey-related volunteerism. The packaged foods giant will at season’s end compare consumer reaction to “Hockey Goes On” to Hockeyville to best determine how to invest future marketing dollars. In this instance, the lockout unexpectedly provided a living laboratory for marketing innovation.
In the U.S., McDonald’s had plans to be a key NHL sponsor this season, with ads tied to the Winter Classic, the NHL All-Star Game, and other marquee events. After the lockout began, it signed a two-year national deal with the NFL instead—though regionally, the Golden Arches just became a presenting sponsor of the big market Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings.

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